"Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Philippians 3:16 (NIV)
Last year, I was on a plane with two of my friends. We were talking in normal conversational tones about the release of my book, Unglued, when suddenly the couple in the next row up came unglued. On us. Joy.
The man turned around and said, "Can you guys just QUIET DOWN already?"
It wasn't a gentle suggestion. It was a harsh command.
A little stunned, we simply replied, "Sure."
And we did our best to finish our conversation in a volume slightly above a whisper. But that wasn't working for this man or his wife who kept turning around to give us "the look."
Finally, in as kind a voice as I could muster up, I tried to explain the situation, "Sir, we are really trying to be as quiet as possible, but I've recently experienced trauma to my ear which caused hearing loss. While I want to respect your wishes, I'm having such a hard time hearing my friends ..."
Before I could finish my sentence, his wife whipped her head around and snapped, "Well, we don't have hearing loss and your constant talking has given me a migraine. So just HUSH, okay?"
My heart raced. My face turned red. And I thought of the perfect comeback to say.
Have you ever wanted to put your Christianity on a shelf and be as mean to someone as they are being to you?
Maybe not, because you are nice. And most of the time, I am too. But in this moment I didn't want to apply a single bit of my own advice I'd just written about in Unglued. I won't tell you what I wanted to say, but I can assure you it didn't involve being kind or gentle.
This is the exact point where I had to make a choice.
A choice of whom I wanted to partner with in this situation ... God or Satan.
If I'd chosen the route of anger, a harsh comeback and retaliation, I would have basically stepped into Satan's camp and caused conflict escalation. If, however, I'd chosen the route of gentleness and grace, I would be partnering with God and would continue to make progress with my raw emotions. Like Philippians 3:16 reminds me, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained."
On my journey of improving my reactions, I have already attained more gentleness, more grace, more peace. Why would I want to trade all that for a few minutes of retaliating words? Words that will only leave me with a big ol' pile of regret.
Now I can't promise I've progressed to the point where my initial thoughts about this couple were nice. They weren't. But, I chose to consider the reality that people who are that on edge must have a lot of stored up misery. Their reaction probably had a lot less to do with me and a lot more to do with another situation in their lives.
My job wasn't to fix them or set them straight or prove how wrong they were acting.
My job in that moment was to keep everything in perspective. And simply give a gentle answer that could turn away their wrath.
While it felt hugely offensive when it was happening, it wasn't huge. This wasn't some sort of major injustice in my life. This was just a minor inconvenience. Why would I want to trade the peace of partnering with God for a few cheap moments of putting someone else in their place?
It's all about perspective.
Because in all honesty, if this was the worst thing that happened to me that day, it was still a pretty good day!
Dear Lord, You are so good and faithful. Thank You for helping me keep things in perspective so I can work on having better reactions that honor You. In Jesus' Name, amen.
If you're struggling to make wise decisions in the midst of your raw emotions, check out Lysa TerKeurst's book Unglued
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Reflect and Respond:
Think about the last time you reacted out of anger, frustration, bitterness, etc.
Assess how you felt in that moment and what mindset you need the next time a conflict arises.
Remember to ask yourself — will I partner with Satan or God with the reaction I'm about to have?
Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)