React or Respond

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies out growth and our freedom.”

Victor Frankl

My friend was pulling out of the driveway with her son in the car.  Her sweet husband was in the yard and noticed that the dog was trying to get in the car.  He started calling to the dog because that silly pooch would probably run right up under the wheels of the car trying to go with my friend. The pup was too excited to come when he was called.  The husband got frustrated and started yelling at the dog. Hubby’s frustration propelled the pooch closer to the idling car.  Poor frustrated hubby, poor scared poochie.  Then my friend got frustrated. Her kid got frustrated. Voices were raised and everyone’s peace was disturbed.

The whole frustrated scene could have gone in a different direction had everyone paused and made a decision on how to respond to the silly puppy.

We always have a choice, to either react or respond.

What’s the difference?  We’ve all heard the phrase “knee jerk reaction.” That’s just what it is, a reaction. The brain doesn’t think, an emotion fires and BOOM! We react.

People are on edge everywhere.  They blare their horns in traffic. They yell at each other on TV talk shows. It’s normal in our society to be outraged and offended.  What’s the solution? How can we become less reactive?

The answer is in the pause. In the space between the first emotional impulse and the next thought we pause. We don’t get to chose our emotions or our first thoughts but we do get to chose the next thought.  By pausing between the emotion and the next thought, we create some space. In that space we can choose an appropriate response.

When we unconsciously allow the actions of others to impact our emotions and our reactions to the day to day life, then we are enslaved to others.  That’s not freedom. That influx of negative emotion can impact your well being as well as the people in your vicinity.  You want to be a better friend? A better spouse? A better co worker? Better parent? Learn the pause.

What if the husband had chosen humor instead of frustration?  I imagine a scene from a dogs-happiness-frazier_sprime time sitcom. Husband chasing the dog, with prat falls for the comic benefit of the kid and the wife.  The wife and the kid laughing at the husband with affection.  All of them getting a squirt of serotonin to send them out on their errand.  Isn’t that much more fun than frustration?

Just for today

I will chose the pause. Period.


Oh Lord, please help me. It’s nearly impossible for me to recognize when my emotions are driving my behavior. Especially now that I’m just becoming aware that this is an actual thing that I can actually choose to do.  Grant me the ability to pause and wait for the emotion to pass.  Fill me with your peace and joy, to expel the negative junk that gunks up my head in the first place.  Thank you for taking care of this, not just for me but for those people I love.

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