All I really needed to know I learned by being a mom. OK – Not really. I learned it much sooner, but I don’t think much of it has sunk in as much as in this season of my life. So many of the words or the phrases I hear coming out of my mouth are lessons I need to take to heart and apply to all of my relationships. How many times have I yelled to my kids, “You need to be patient!!!” Oh the irony. “You are responsible for how you respond” is a phrase I have heard come out of my mouth a lot lately, and I realize it’s a phrase I need to adopt in my own life.
As I hear this phrase echoed in my parenting, I reflect on all of the relationships in my life that need to experience a more gracious response from me. Today I want to talk about how this phrase can be used in parenting your kids, but I also want to show how this phrase can transform other aspects of your life. We all have a choice as to how we respond to life. I know that I often make the wrong choice, and it’s something I’m working on in all areas of existence. How you respond in the light of life’s circumstances is a great reflection of your character and where your hope comes from. One of my life verses is, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5. I like this verse because it challenges me, not because it comes easy to me. I am someone who would rather have life come easy. I don’t often embrace the storm. I need to be reminded that how I respond to challenges – in life, with my kids, with my spouse or in other relationships – becomes a light to those around me. These are the lessons I want to teach my kids as well.
You Are Responsible for How You Respond – A Lesson FOR KIDS
The kids are playing upstairs.
I am working on getting things done downstairs.
A sudden scream, “You are stupid. I never want to play with you again.”
Yes, there was something negative to instigate that response, but who do you think also needs to be talked to in this situation? The person who responded in such a negative way. I call that child down first. I validate that the other person did something wrong. I have empathy for their feelings of anger and frustration. The phrase that you will hear me say next is, “You are responsible for how you respond.” I ask them how they could have responded differently. We have talked about the choices they have for solving problems with other people. They chose to respond poorly. I then give a consequence for the negative response. I want to let me kids know that they will be surrounded by people throughout their life that do the wrong thing. They will be burned. They will have struggles. We can not control other people’s action. What we can control is our response. The feelings can be validated, but how we respond to our anger, frustration and hurt is our choice. Doing the right thing keeps us above reproach and demonstrates a measure of grace that is much needed. In essence, your child has a choice as to whether diffuse a situation or make it worse.
You Are Responsible for How You Respond IN MARRIAGE
In marriage, people often get caught up in the “crazy cycle,” which is defined and addresses so beautifully in Emerson Eggerich’s book, “Love and Respect” (affiliate link). The crazy cycle is a circular negative pattern where there is a lack of love and/or respect for your spouse. Someone has to be the bigger person and step out of the cycle to make the difference. “You are responsible for how you respond,” is perfectly applied in this situation. Your spouse acts unlovingly to you. Our innate response is to lash out with disrespect. If we do, the cycle continues. What happens if you respond in a respectful way? This can transform your marriage <—- READ MORE.
Your spouse might be in the wrong in a number of situations. Do you respond by nagging, bouts of anger, or by stone walling? If so, you become part of the problem rather than the solution. Do you respond to sin with sin? I know that I sometimes do, but when I make the choice to step out and respond in the most loving way possible, there is progress.
This does not mean you need to stuff your feelings and allow yourself to be walked on in your marriage. You will need to learn to discuss your feelings in a positive way with your spouse saying phrases like, “I felt really hurt when…” It will involve being careful about how you say things and your timing as you approach your spouse. In the book Sacred Marriage (affiliate) by Gary Thomas, he poses the questions, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” If you can view struggles in marriage as part of the process of refining you, your positive response to your married life will only help to make you stronger and more grace-filled as a human being.
You Are Responsible for How You Respond TO YOUR KIDS
Becoming a mom has been one of the more humbling seasons of my life. I didn’t know it would be so hard. I didn’t know about the sin it would reveal in my own life. I wrote a post titled, “I Have Everything I Ever Wanted. Why am I so Unhappy?” I outlined a number of contributing factors to my discontentment, but what it boils down to is that my response to my kids and my life situation was negative. Rather than accepting the challenges that come with parenting, I whined about them. I didn’t embrace the refinement, I fought it. I am the adult in the relationship, but I didn’t muster the self-control I was trying to teach to my kids and responded with frustration, anger, yelling and resentment. It was my choice. I’m still not perfect at this parenting gig. Just in case you are wondering, I never will be. However, I have learned that I have to change my own attitude to make a big impact on my family. <——-READ MORE
You Are Responsible for How You Respond IN OTHER RELATIONSHIPS
Marriage and immediate family relationships are often the most evident because they are right there in your face and tend to be extremely important and personal. There is a lot of depth to those relationships, and there is a lot of exposure to those people. However, you mustn’t forget that you are responsible for how you respond in all other relationships. You will have extended family – in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There will be bosses and co-workers that pose problems and challenges. Throughout life there will be teachers, coaches, friends, people at church and neighbors who will get under your skin. Jesus was asked about the greatest commandments. The first he said was to love God. The second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say to love the people who are easy to love. He has a huge heart for the outcast, the downtrodden and even the enemy. The Bible teaches us to “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44. Are we going to follow Jesus’ teaching, or are we going to let the challenges that come with relationships cause us to respond with hatred and ugliness? It’s a struggle. I absolutely know that, but you have the choice.
The choice is to respond with love rather than hate, grace rather than indecency, forgiveness rather than contempt, kindness rather than animosity, and mercy rather than disdain. Is it an easy choice? No. However, it’s the choice that will transform your relationships. In essence, it’s also the choice that will transform you. Choosing to respond in the right way benefits you just as much as it benefits the other…maybe even more. As confessed, changing my reaction to things and embracing the struggle does not come easy to me. Will you join me in fighting off the flesh that wants me to respond with selfishness and pride? Will you join me in trying to change how you respond to life and others? I’d love to have companions on this journey.