Saturday, April 21, 2012

Forgiveness - What's Your 1 Percent?

My Part Matters, Even if it’s Only 1%

“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”                        Philippians 1:6

Sometimes God takes us on a journey of self-discovery that we don’t even know we’ve begun until well on our way.

Recently, I had a painful run in with one of my sisters. We were having a conversation and all of the sudden she started asking me questions that put me on the defensive. The questions were on a sensitive matter, which she knew. Even though I was clearly feeling uncomfortable, interrogated, and expressing this, she continued pushing. I felt accused and bruised. And I reacted strongly. It was a scene that escalated and left me feeling angry, indignant, very self-righteous.

I shared the story with a trusted friend. She peered into my eyes, took my hand, and said, “I think God has something for you here. I would seek Him.”

“Well…okay. What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, but I just sense there’s something God wants to show you through this situation.”

I nodded, not at all convinced that there was anything I needed to do except forgive. I was definitely thinking I was right and my sister was wrong. Mostly, I shook off my friend’s comment with a hint of “Yeah, right. Whatever…”

Well maybe you’re familiar with how this kind of conversation with a friend can stick with you, especially if God is at work.

The first thing ringing in my ears were the words I’ve heard from Fern Nichols, Founder of Moms In Prayer ( I’m paraphrasing, but this is the idea, “Even if we’re convinced we are 99% right, we are still accountable for our 1%.”

I was crystal clear on my sister’s part, so I asked God, “Okay, what’s my part?”

Unfortunately, that still small voice within whispered quickly and clearly, “Your reactivity.”

Oh, well, uhhhh. I imagined the scene of the argument again. I pictured myself practically spitting out my words. What’s that scripture? “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Oh, yeah.

I was definitely not giving gentle answers. My volume was up, my neck was strained, my responses were defensive and probably offensive. Harsh. Guilty as charged. Not only that, but I knew God was not speaking about a one-time event.

So I have been thinking about this for a few weeks. And I’ve realized reactivity is one of my M.O.s, my default. In other words, it’s a pretty common response.

Sadly, I’ve heard this before. My kids have many times accused me of being emotionally reactive. They’ve even told me they will hold back information from me to avoid my reaction. And my husband? Well I think my reactivity has even intimidated him a time or two in our more than 32 years together. (Ya think?) Perhaps I have something to do with why, even when invited to share, my husband often can’t seem to find anything he thinks I could work on in our relationship.

I know I’m saying all this in a way that may seem casual and maybe even cavalier. But trust me. I know reactivity is a very bad trait. It’s an intimacy blocker. I use it to intimidate, even bully. And I feel woefully justified when I do it. Because, after all, my reactivity is a r-e-a-c-t-i-o-n. By definition, it’s a response to some treatment, stimulus, or situation. “I didn’t start it.” “I was provoked.” “I’ve been pushed into reacting.”

Excuses, excuses. I don’t want to be this way.

Can I change? Yes, I believe I can. The first step is acknowledging I’ve got a problem. The next steps? Prayer, mindfulness, reliance on God’s strength in my weakness, and a willingness to try, try, try again.

How about you? Has God convicted you lately of anything you need to work on? Is there a behavior that you’d like to change? Do you need to consider your 1%? Hey, we’re all in this together. Please share!


  1. Why yes Elise! God has been dealing with my emotional outbursts that seem to happen when I'm tired. I am learning to shut my mouth and not attack my loved ones when I need to take a nap instead. It really makes a big difference when I can control my reactions to things. Most of the time I can do this when I've had enough rest. And you are right.We're all in this together. Love, Your other Sister! LOL

    1. Thanks Joy...oh yes, you are the other sister, not the one I mentioned in this post! Looks like Phyllis below can relate to the keeping our mouths shut. I think of something I learned years ago in conflict resolution training. HALT--When you feel yourself losing control STOP and think, "Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?" It slows us down long enough to think and respond instead of react.

  2. I, too, must be more controlled when someone (mostly my husband) says something that makes me feel attacked. Just keeping my mouth shut (even for 60 seconds)would be productive, I bet. Thanks for making me conscious of this. Think I'll try an experiement this week and just be silent and WAIT 60 seconds when I might otherwise be compelled to respond...or react. I'll let you know how it goes. Love you, sis!

    1. Do let us know how it goes! See HALT above for another calming trick.

  3. How interesting that you happened upon my blog today so I could then happen upon yours, Elise. I have read only this post so far, but will definitely come back to peruse more. I relate to being too reactive as well, and had to smile wryly at your comment about daughters (I have 3!) not exactly sharing everything because of what my reaction might be. I truly appreciate your honesty and feel it's one of the things we need in the Body of Christ. I noticed you used to be involved with Bradley childbirth too - I didn't do the Bradley method but did have my third daughter at home and wanted to be a midwife for a while. I look forward to getting to know you through your blog, Elise! xxoo

  4. Julie! So nice to have you here. Oh yes, those kids will keep us on track. Loved teaching couples for many years as a Bradley Instructor. I too thought of becoming a midwife. Looking forward to getting to know you too. Blessings!


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