You know that silly little hammer thing the doctor uses to check your reflexes? There you are, sitting on the table when he pulls out the hammer and hits your knee cap, and helplessly your knee goes into a full swing in a forward motion. We call this a reaction. A reaction is when there is no control of what happens next. You touch a hot stove, you pull your finger away.
Leaders don’t have the right to react, but rather the responsibility to respond
When I first stepped into leadership, I noticed early on that I would react all the time to situations that I didn’t agree with. Reactions are normally selfishly motivated and happen when not much thought has gone into the possible outcome.
Responding takes more time, thought, and wisdom, but the outcome assures that everyone wins. When leaders respond they slow down, zoom out, and see the bigger picture. When responding to situations, I think about the words I’m fixing to say while asking, “How is the other person going to receive this?” “Are my statements going to encourage this person?” “Is the motive of my message vision or verbal violence?’
Example: Teenager comes to you to confide in something they have been struggling with.
Reaction: “Well, if you’d come to church more and read your Bible we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Responding: “I’m proud of you for understanding that when you need help, run to God first. Yes, I’m disappointed and we need to make some changes, but our God is great at turning a mess into a message. Let’s walk it out together.”