Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reacting and Responding - Part One

One look says it all.
Sculpture by Bill and Lori Gregory.
Once, during my early career in banking, I extended a one-finger-salute to another driver.  I was proceeding through a green light, and she pulled directly in front of me.  Clearly she had no business being behind the wheel!  Imagine my surprise when our eyes met, and I realized that we worked together.  My reaction that day caused me to reevaluate my behavior, and it was the last time that I used that finger in that manner. 

Hi.  My name is Jean.  I'm addicted to reacting.  

At least I was at one time.  I was young.  I was passionate.  I cared deeply.  At the drop of a hat, I was quick to proactively defend the principles and people closest to my heart.  Vocally, forcefully, and frequently, I did exactly that.  I tended to be righteous in the certainty of my position.  In the heat of a discussion, I'd barely take a breath to allow my perceived opponent to speak, and if they did manage to squeeze in a word or two, I'd mentally prepare my retort as they spoke.  In hindsight, this behavior didn't serve me or anyone else very well.

Through the years, I've softened. Time has taught me that our differing opinions are worth celebrating.  I enjoy listening to the thoughts of others in hope that I'll develop an understanding of why they do what they do and believe what they believe.  While we may never agree with each other, we can always be respectful of each other's feelings.  

Do I still react?  Absolutely and with great regularity!  Only now I try to use the power of my reactions for good.   I'm less enthusiastic about expressing my reactions to the world at large in the moment.  Instead I sit with them.  I reflect on the expressed and unexpressed feelings of everyone involved.  I strip away the rawest of my emotions from my reactions, and I consider the validity of all that remains.  

Then, and only then, I respond.  I find it to be a kinder gentler manner of expressing myself in most situations, and couldn't we all use a bit more kindness and gentleness in our lives?


  1. Your words could have just as easily come from my own mouth, dear friend. It has been a long road for this girl to do the same, or at least become more aware of your same conclusions. It is all still a work in progress and with age, maybe some of us consider more, listen more, become a bit more mellow and react less to what would normally cause a freak out or an explosion of emotion including fingers ;-) or maybe it is because we finally just learned how to .... breathe. xo

    1. Thank you so much, Lynne! Do you suppose that it might be the "Pennsylvania Girl" in us rearing her head again?!?!

      Stay tuned; you'll be making an appearance in Reacting and Responding Part II. ;-)