There’s been a lot of life happening all around me, in the church community and in our family. Along with that life comes lots of anxiety, giddiness and kneejerk reactions that bear some comment.
Just because something someone says or does generates an immediate emotional response inside you doesn’t mean that you have to share your feelings and thoughts with the rest of us immediately. Chances are – if you hung onto those feelings and thoughts for a few hours, or better yet, a day or two, it might change the tone, substance and amount of what you share – to the better. You’ll sound smarter, more thoughtful and be less likely to have to apologize or feel guilty later.
Online forums facilitate sharing one’s thoughts with a dispersed community, but they carry an inherent danger of “opening your mouth before engaging your brain.” Just because you can comment doesn’t mean that you should. Show some judgment and restraint, or as was said in an earlier generation, show some “class.”
When you’re happy while others around you are sad – like when you’ve landed the perfect new job while your buddies are still jobless, struggling to survive, give a thought to how you express your happiness without wounding your friends unintentionally. I’ve written before about how we should be happy for one another’s good fortune, how we shouldn’t have to dampen our happiness unduly. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate your good fortune. But it’s about tone, substance and amount of sharing again. It’s about empathy and compassion. We used to say, “put yourself in the other’s shoes” and “follow the Golden Rule.”
Some of us, yours truly included, have a core of impulsivity that we have to work really hard to control. Spontaneity and impulsivity are two sides of the same coin – an ability to respond to the world with unfettered enthusiasm and sheer joy or with unedited anger and harsh retribution. It’s easy to forgive or even join in the enthusiastic and joyful spontaneous and impulsive acts of others. They typically don’t cause irreparable or lasting harm.
But it’s often tough to forgive or recover from a flood of anger and paybacks, because the feelings they engender touch our very core notions of who we are and what our relationships are about. Count to ten. Count to a thousand. Make that ten thousand or a million, because it just might be best not to stop counting so that you don’t open those floodgates.
These instances of anxiety, giddiness and kneejerk reactions call for the healthier alternative of slowing down our responses instead of letting them fly out on their own. Slowing down allows space for deliberation and intentionality, so that we are not at the effect of our feelings or gut reactions. Relationships are worth the effort and time that it takes to think about them, invest in them and get them right.