In today’s world of social media and instant communication, we need even greater restraint when faced with situations that tempt us to react. Whether we are coming face to face with those who have hurt us or answering when an offense is brought against us, the inclination to say or do something immediately can be overwhelming. I know I am especially sensitive to this when others criticize my children. I’ve also witnessed some great friendships torn apart over skirmishes between children, extended family members, or mutual friends. We need time to see things clearly so that we don’t act first and think later.
Can you recall a time in your life when you found yourself face to face with a person who had hurt you in the past? If so, what were some of the emotions you experienced? Did you react, respond, or avoid the situation?
Every human on the planet struggles to patiently respond instead of emotionally react. We find Joseph having a very emotional day in this next part of his story. In Genesis 42 we find his face-to-face encounter with his brothers.
When his brothers traveled to Egypt in search of grain, they didn’t recognize Joseph. He certainly recognized them! However, he didn’t reveal his identity right away. His initial reaction to them was to falsely accuse them and put them in prison for three days. During that time we saw Joseph soften his original decision and speak much more kindly and clear headed.
“On the third day Joseph said to them, “I am a God-fearing man. If you do as I say, you will live. If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison. The rest of you may go on home with grain for your starving families. But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.” To this they agreed.”(Genesis 42:18-20)
He took three days for his rule of response. In our fast-paced world, you might not have three full days to respond; but at least follow the twenty-four-hour rule. Whatever it is that you want to react to—big or small—just wait. Think. Pray. Ask God for wisdom. Allow time for your emotions to settle so that you can see things more clearly. As we continue to learn from Joseph’s example, may we be careful to remember his rule of response. In order to see God’s bigger plan and give time for emotions to settle, we must learn to wait before taking action so that we can be responders instead of reactors.
In thinking through what is weighing on your heart and mind today… how are you tempted to react instead of respond? Give yourself time today to let the emotion shake out before emailing, texting, calling, or posting something you might regret later!