A bad moment, a bad day, a bad week… it’s ok. It doesn’t define you. I almost thought about ending the post there. The reality is, that sums up the lesson you need to learn. But I suspect it wouldn’t be as impactful. If you have been super encouraged by the first sentence, great. If you’re normal like the rest of us, read on.
We’ve all been there. We’ve had that moment that something happens and it feels like the end of the world. You sent an email to the wrong person, you reacted poorly to something, you made a mistake at work, you reacted in an awful way to your family. Insert whatever the scenario was here and you have just expended all of the change you had left in the bank and now you are stuck in the rut of your mind that this moment will be your definition for the rest of your life. Being a bit dramatic I think. And I can say that many times. I bet you have too.
So how do you deal with it? Well, remember that a singular moment or incident or occurrence doesn’t define you. Normally you know that. But, in those moments, you forget it. But think of it from the other side of the coin. Do you define someone by one single thing that happens? I’m not talking about something that happens over and over and over. That’s called a pattern. And that most certainly is something you probably have every right to define someone by. Those aren’t usually the things that get us though.
I can’t help but think about a couple of US Presidents and things that happened during their Presidency, This isn’t political, so don’t read the following in that way. In 2001, George W. Bush was President. Then, September 11 happened and the attacks on US soil by terrorists. In 2020, Donald Trump was President. And that’s recent enough that any reader knows what happened in 2020, Covid19. I have thought many times about how these men had to deal with such horrible things during their terms in office. But, the reality is, those incidents don’t define them or their Presidencies. Now, about now, I know what you’re thinking, those weren’t things they were in control of or directly responsible for. And what has you thinking you may be a horrible person is something that you did.
I’ll share a personal experience. I hit reply all. YES I DID! And, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t kind in my reply. It was a reply to a message that was equally unkind about my staff team. From my perspective, it was an email of blame being thrust upon my team for their failure to react instantly to the sender’s poor planning and in-the-moment changes of what they wanted. And I was there, my team was working as hard as they could to accommodate. But things kept changing on the fly and tensions were high. I also tend to be somewhat protective of my people. To a fault maybe. I knew they worked really hard under not so pleasant conditions and so when this email came out blasting them, I fired back. It wasn’t my intention to do so publicly (reply all), it was only supposed to go to my boss so he had the other side of the story. Whoops.
I remember lamenting over that accident for weeks. It was uncomfortable. I felt like I had a noose around my neck and the floor was going to fall out from under me at any time. In that moment, I felt like my life just flashed before my eyes and my career was over. I had done the unthinkable. I had responded to a negative nelly with a dose of their own medicine. HA. But seriously though, it was worded and toned very defensively, almost offensively because I was sending it to one person, not everyone. And not wanting to reply to the person that started the negative banter.
Later on, I learned that, while my email going to all those people was 100% inappropriate, it wasn’t the end of the world. I was asked about it by our personnel team. I knew it was coming. It was par for the course during my time there. But the funny thing was, it wasn’t the person that I blasted that complained about it. It was someone else that was just trying to get me in trouble. Drama? On a church staff? But, I digress.
The reality is that you aren’t always in control of things that happen. The only thing you can be in control of is how you respond. In every situation that arises, you’re going to have a natural tendency. You are wired a certain way. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what makes us all unique. But, you are responsible for how you handle and engage. Think about Jesus before the chief priests and teachers when He had been arrested. They told Him to tell them He was the Messiah. His response? If I tell you, you will not believe me… Jesus could have stood up and flicked them all out of existence. He was God after all. But He didn’t. He knew He had to have the proper response. He knew that He was destined for sacrifice to save us.
I know I took that down a super spiritual Jesus Juke road. The reality is, who better to set the example of being in control of how we respond to the good and bad days than Jesus. He was crucified, tortured, murdered and He was an innocent man. Not only that, but we needed Him to respond appropriately. If He hadn’t, we’d all be screwed. He could have controlled the situation and He chose to act with compassion, patience, grace, and mercy. We can’t control our situations much of the time. We should respond the same way all the more.