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Responding vs. Reacting

“By learning to accept the small things immediately as they happen, you can be free of having to react to things at all.  You still can respond when action is needed, but you can be free, internally, of events.” – Eckhart Tolle

Everything that could go wrong in 24 hours pretty much did go wrong a few days ago. The bad day started with the first email I got, the kids were late to school, I was cut-off in traffic, almost crashed my car, a lady in the 15 and fewer lane at the grocery store had 50 items while I was behind her in a hurry, etc…

The day continued this way and did not end until my head hit the pillow.  As the day went on, my reactions to these situations were getting progressively less healthy. To be honest, I don’t think they started healthy. It seemed easy for me to justify why I was reacting the way I was and why my terrible attitude was their fault. However, the reality is that I could have chosen to have a better response from the beginning, which would have changed my outlook on my day.

Do you ever feel this way?

Do you think you’re justified in the way you treat or reply to others because they caused that reaction from you?  Whether it is a combination of things or a small moment during your day, you have a choice whether to react or respond. There are big variances in these two words, but many times we tend to use them interchangeably. These words produce significant differences in our outlooks and outcomes of our circumstances.  

Learning and applying the differences between these two ideas has been a life changer for me. I have allowed myself the freedom to realize that the way I was choosing to confront my pain, insecurities, anger, etc. was unfair to the people around me and myself. I was allowing myself to be taken over by my fear, criticism, and arrogance.  Why does this happen? Something in the other person’s actions or words towards us usually triggers these feelings, which makes us defensive. What if there’s a better way to defend ourselves? We have all been in situations where someone has done or said something that has hurt. The key is not how we react to them but how we choose to respond to them. Here’s the difference.


Our instincts call us to react. Reactions come quick and without much thought.  A reaction is based in the moment, like a knee-jerk reaction. The ramifications of what was just said or done are usually not thought through and can cause more conflict. We must learn to respond if we want to build and maintain healthy relationships


A response is something that comes from control, thoughtfulness, and awareness.  To respond to something is thinking of how your actions will effect yourself and the ones around you in the long term.  A response is patient and holds freedom for us to know that we put our best foot forward. You came out of your conflict with peace and are moving forward. No regrets, shame, or guilt.

Pause for a Moment

So, the next time someone does or says something that affects you negatively, pause and think about how you will respond. At the end of the day, your response is more about you continuing to grow in a healthy and productive fashion. What happens is not as important as how you respond.

Give Amy Wine Counseling Center a call at 832-421-8714 if you have questions about our therapeutic services or would like to schedule an appointment.


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