As we continue exploring this issue of toxic emotions which affect our behavior let’s explore ways of correcting some of these insidious emotions. First let me just tell you having contaminated emotions is no fun and it steals our ability to live an enjoyable and happy life, because we’re always waiting to see who will hurt us next. So the question is how did I rid myself of a spirit of offense or feeling the need to defend myself all the time?
Every time someone said something about me I felt the need to defend myself whether they were right or wrong. But especially if they were wrong. I had to give them all the reasons of why they were wrong. So finally it occurred to me that just because they said it didn’t make it right, nor was it necessary to defend myself. My husband, my biggest advocate would ask this question as I would go running to him, saying, “so and so said such and such, and I said thus and so.” His response: “So why did you feel the need to react to everything they said; why was it important, and why didn’t you just listen if you disagreed…” “What? Not react? That’s crazy, I’ve got to defend myself.” Then I began to read articles asking questions like “Do you react to every negative thing someone says or do you respond in an intelligent and satisfactory manner? Or something to that affect. The article would go on to read, “Learn how to respond and not react.”
Learn how to respond and not react! How do you do that? What does that even mean? So I began to ask God first to teach me the difference between the two, and then teach me how to respond appropriately. That’s like asking for patience right? It took some doing but I began to learn and put what I was learning into practice. Have I mastered it? Not entirely, but I’m now so much better at paying attention to my reaction and trying to keep my emotions intact. It requires a made up mind, diligence and commitment. Otherwise you find yourself in constant conflict with EVERYBODY! Sometimes we just have to give up our right to be right, right?
So you ask “What’s the difference between reacting and responding?” Reacting is typically demonstrating defensiveness, anger, hurt, woundedness, shame, humiliation, etc., based on something someone said. Reacting to a situation especially if you’re one with a tendency to fly off the handle anyway, takes your edge away – your power. You give someone else control over your emotions simply because you no longer have the ability to control your emotions. It now gives the other person the right to speak whatever they want to say over you often times releasing polluted and contaminated words. Maybe not intentionally but out of their own toxic contaminated emotions and thought patterns, and believe me most everybody has some toxic stuff they need to rid themselves of. This leads right into taking on a spirit of offense at what they said, a lack of confidence in yourself, a need to please them and meet their standards. There is an old saying “when you buy another man’s opinion, you buy his lifestyle.”
Responding to someone’s negative comments takes a bit more thought provoking behavior. In my book, The Whole Soul, I teach you practical ways of taking control over your thoughts which affect your emotional behavior. So, before automatically responding to something, stop for a moment and think about your response. Consider the person you’re talking to as well. What is their behavior? Are they typically a negative person anyway? Make sure you know their personality. Will your response have a positive impact on them? Can you edify them without the need to pacify your own emotions? Does it even matter? Remember when responding rather than reacting, you will be using more logic than emotion, so your left brain thinking should be kicking in, the more logical side than your right, creative, emotional part of your brain.
So remember when you learn that there is a great difference in reacting than responding you’ll have more peace, your body will not take on the stresses of defending and being offended. I also have a free booklet called “Offense vs. Woundedness,” which will help you navigate some of those toxic emotions. Here are a couple of books that will enlighten you even further:
“Understanding the Messages of Your Body – How to Interpret Physical and Emotional Signals to Achieve Optimal Health” by Jean-Pierre Barral D. O. and “Deadly Emotions” by Dr. Don Colbert. Also the website below is an excellent resource on reacting and responding with great feedback from readers. Happy exploring.
I hope this article helps you on your journey to recognizing and getting rid of toxic behavior once and for all. Next week I’ll discuss several other questions I asked you to ponder while reading my blogs on Personal Toxicity.