Responding Versus Reacting

Some of the biggest trouble I’ve gotten into in life has been due to reacting. Whether it’s been in professional sports, relationships, marriage, or child rearing, when I’ve merely ‘reacted’ rather than responding, I’ve usually blown it big time.

Here are some key differences, then we’ll talk a bit more about it.

To react is usually defensive. When we react it usually means we feel we are at a disadvantage or out of control. We’re mainly operating out of fear, backed against the wall so to speak.

When we’re reacting, we’re typically emotionally driven or, to put it bluntly, a slave to our emotions.

Emotions, without much of a reasoning process at all, are what drive our reactionary behavior. The outcome is typically counter-productive, as we are reacting passionately, but we all know we can be passionately wrong.

To respond, however, is more based on reason and the outcome of thoughtful, calculated behavior.

Responding is led more by logic and critical thinking.

When dealing with infidelity, to respond means implementing a strategy to get you where you want to go rather than allowing emotions, passion and defensiveness lead. 

When we are responding, we are civil and are usually acting in a very forthright manner, using either wisdom we have received, a curriculum we are going through or a strategy which is behind our choices.

When we choose to respond, we typically have more control on the eventual outcome of the situation or difficulty at hand.

When dealing with infidelity, either betrayed or unfaithful, typically all we do is react. The trauma, shame and anger involved with this ordeal is off the charts and we are two reacting individuals, pushing each other to a place where we wonder if we will EVER come back.

The level of uncertainty a spouse feels is practically immeasurable and we are faced with the dark reality that no matter how hard we try, we are not in control.

The answer is found not in one mere principle, but in a collective and calculated approach to this nightmare, which involves the ability to respond. If we keep reacting, we’ll only make things worse, and create more collateral damage for all parties.

However, to be able to respond, we need better help, better teaching, and ultimately better approaches. Without this type of help, strategy or intention in our behavior, we’ll muck it up time and time again.

Having become a specialist in reacting, I pray we all chose to work on responding today. If we will respond, it will usually give us a better chance at operating out of love and concern both for ourselves and our spouse’s, regardless of their behavior. 

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