It isn't easy loving others. A part of my own spiritual journey has been spending time with a few different counselors, priests, ministers, and psychologists. I'm a huge fan of therapy and not ashamed to tell anyone about what I learned or how much it helped me. Through many sessions the best tool that I received was how to learn to respond to others instead of react to their actions/words. I have peace and joy in my life because I have learned how to have self control when someone says or does something hurtful. Ok, reality check, I have lost it a few times, and I always regretted it because I knew better and it didn't help. In each and every moment I have choices:
React and Lash Out.
Sulk Away and Attack Myself by questioning my own self worth
Try and Ignore it
Be angry and think of ways to retaliate
Cast Judgement on the other person or myself
PAUSE AND PRAY
It is not easy to pause and pray at first but it becomes somewhat second nature after you do it for a while. What happens when I Pause and Pray? While I am pausing I step as far back from the situation as possible. Sometimes, I can pause just for a minute. Other times it takes hours, days, or months. In my prayer I ask for help. I ask God to help me see the bigger picture and know if he can't show me the entire picture, because he's still working on it, I ask him if he can show me just enough to help me understand as much of the situation as possible. This is particularly important when it comes to handling conflict with others.
Here are some questions I ask myself during the pause:
What was their perception of my words/body language/ tone of voice during the situation?
What was their intention?
What would make them react to me in the way that they did?
Was it really about me or are there things that I just can't see that have absolutely nothing to do with me but everything to do with the other person's fear?
How should I respond?
Should I even respond?
What will my response change about that person's behavior?
Did they intentionally mean me harm?
How will they feel tomorrow if they discover that they hurt me?
While I'm going through these questions I often find that the only thing I truly have control over is myself. Most often, I'm not choosing to ignore people's behavior towards me. Instead, I'm choosing to allow it to have a hold on me and to take away my joy. I'm choosing to ask God to work in that person and to work in me. I'm asking for God to show me the other person's point of view. I'm choosing to trust that if and when I need to respond he will place the words on my tongue. When the words are God's words they will be kind. It's not easy, but I find it's worth it and it's how I live with a peaceful heart. If time goes on, and I can't let it go, I may have to go back and ask the person some questions or express how I perceived the situation and felt. The majority of the time, I realize it's not something that holds enough value that I need to speak up. I find I can hand it to God and let it go.
I also go through one other exercise that brings me peace.
TRUTH or LIE - I ask myself what I know to be true about myself. I ask myself what I know to be true about God. Then I repeat what I heard and ask myself is that a truth or a lie. If what I heard was harsh, hurtful, and meant to cause harm to my spirit, I know it wasn't God's truth about me. If it's a LIE, I ask God to take it and reveal his truth about me. I've learned that while I can stand up for myself, I don't need to defend myself or my actions when I'm living the life I'm called to live. Instead, I trust that God knows my heart. He designed it, and his truth is always revealed. Even if someone never sees the full truth I remind myself what's important. I know my truths and God knows my heart.
Today, I would love for you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and visualize how you are showing love to others. Even if you are not a believer like me, consider what it would feel like to respond to others in a way that will bring you peace even when they are not doing the same for you. What would that look like for you? How do you think your heart will feel if you shift it from reacting in anger to responding with Grace?
When in doubt remember: Pause and Pray. Ask if it's a Truth or a Lie. Respond with Grace!