When we feel tempted to react, practically speaking we need space between our initial perception of a situation and our response to it, so that we can respond thoughtfully. – Charles Stone
Charles Stone in his book People Pleasing Pastor gives a number of insights on how to create this needed space. This is true for everyone, not just pastors. Here are two of the insights he gives as ways to create space when we feel tempted to react.
First, “label your emotion.”
Often when we feel negative emotions, we try to suppress them, especially when we are around others. We push them down, grin and bear it, or put on a happy face so that others don’t see them.
He goes on in his book to describe how trying to suppress them actually takes more energy. It further creates a situation that works against you, allowing the negative emotions to grow stronger and stronger. He is not saying that it is better to react, but he is saying that it is better to label what you are feeling.
Simply acknowledge that you feel it. If you’re in a heated staff meeting and you feel your emotions rise, mentally pray, Lord, right now I’m feeling pretty angry. I acknowledge this and ask you to help calm my emotions. Or you might break for a few minutes and verbally tell yourself the same thing outside the boardroom. For lingering emotions, journaling is a practical way to label and process emotions.
Another step he recommends taking is to take time to “reappraise the situation.”
Reappraisal is simply thinking about a situation differently. It’s choosing to see the glass half full instead of half empty.
Create the space needed before you react. Label your emotions, and reappraise the situation. Stone points to the Apostle Paul’s words as he writes in Philippians 4:
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
(All scripture cited above from Common English Bible Copyright © 2011)