Wednesday, September 21

Changing Reactions

Read James 1

Imagine this scenario:

You need to look something up on the computer, but lose track of time and your two year old child is left unsupervised for 15 minutes. You hear water splashing and run to the kitchen to find your toddler standing on a chair with the water running at the kitchen sink. She is dumping a cup full of water on the floor as you walk in the room. By the looks of the sopping wet child and counter, it wasn’t the first cup of water dumped. Then, your eyes travel to the floor where you take in a mound of flour the size of the toddler. Powder and paste is now running across the floor as rivets of water wash through it like a slick mountain mud slide. What is your reaction?

A) Scream. Yell. Throw the wet and floured child in the bath with too much force. Vent your anger with loud words until the child cries.

B) Take the silent approach. Seethe inwardly at the child while cleaning up the mess. Throw dagger edged looks at her every chance you get until she cries.

C) Take a moment to pray. Calm yourself down and ask your child about the mess. Listen to her answer, the best she can communicate. Pray silently for God’s wisdom on the right way to handle the child. Be slow to speak.

I could run scenarios all day long and every time you would know the right answer is C). We’re experienced parents after all. Of course “calm yourself down and pray for wisdom” is the right answer.

If only it was the easy answer.

Reactions show the true condition of a person’s heart. I know that to be true in my life. No matter how beautifully I can write about perfect parenting, it all comes down to how I react when the rug it pulled out from under me. Or when a papier-mâché preschool project explodes in my kitchen.

Children give us countless opportunities to practice our parenting strategies. Some children more than others. My oldest daughter did something every day to test me between the ages of 18 months and 3 and a half years old. She was full of stunts that drove me crazy and tantrums that made me think I was crazy. I’m ashamed to say I rarely chose the right answer. My reactions (usually A. in similarity) were the same again and again.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” 

(James 1:19 -20).

I wondered, “How can I change my first reaction from human anger to Godly wisdom?” I wanted to continue thinking that how I was acting was just part of my personality. My conscience told me I was wrong. In that moment of anger, is it possible to change from a wrong reaction to a right one?

Actually changing a first reaction requires a lot of work, both in prayer and practice. I’ve been working on it myself for about 2 year. I succeed at times, but still fail too. In any situation, the answer for how I should react is outlined for me: quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

I have the above verse posted around my house. It helps me to read it, quote it, pray it, breath it. The only way I've found to make change effective is to practice. And practice some more.

Each day is full opportunity!

Author's note: A book that really helped me is “She’s Gonna Blow, real help for moms dealing with anger.” The author outlines the "how to" while throwing in lots of Scripture and encouragement. And practically speaking, if you are ever faced with a similar flour/water situation, a shop-vac worked the best for clean-up. Blessings to you as we continue to choose wisely.

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