Not Talking About That Slap

April 5, 2022

It seems that everyone is talking about the slap. They call it the slap heard ‘round the world. I don’t want to do that. It’s wrong to kick people when they are down, cheap to take shots at people when all honesty would compel us to admit our own “slap” moments. They just weren’t televised around the world. It might not have been physical but verbal: at work, at home, in the bedroom, in the office, at the store, with children and adults, family, friends, and strangers.

What I want to talk about is something we all have: anger. Ephesians 4:26–27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (ESV). The Bible has many warnings against the improper use of anger. In the same chapter we are told not to let the sun go down on our anger. We are commanded to put away anger (Ephesians 4:31). James commands us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). David writes, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8). Solomon adds his wisdom: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). The book of Proverbs echoes the cautions about anger: “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (Proverbs 14:29), and “good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV).

A formula that is helpful to me is this: E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome)

The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it’s success or failure, health or sickness, intimacy or brokenness, joy, or anger) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event in your life. That means that if you want to change the results you get in your tomorrow, you must change how you respond to events as they occur.

The difficulty is that most of us respond in a completely predictable way. When we don’t like the outcome or result we are experiencing, our default mode is to blame the event (E) or the people in it for the lack of a desired result or outcome (O). Simply stated, we may blame the economy, racism, gender bias, the current political administration, your spouse, your boss, the lack of support, the disrespect, and so on to infinity. There are an unlimited number of blaming possibilities. This is the direction most people take.

The reality is that these things do exist on some level, and they do impact you in varying degrees. However, if a person’s progress or lack of it was decided by these factors, no one would ever succeed. For every reason (let’s be honest—every excuse) you give, there are hundreds of people who have had the same obstacles, criticism, hardships, and circumstances, yet they have succeeded and flourished.

The deciding factor in the story of your life is not the external conditions and circumstances. It’s how you choose to respond (R). That is the hinge of your door to the future.

We think smothering thoughts and choose self-defeating behaviors. We defend our self-destructive habits (such as excessive drinking) with reasoning that is literally impossible to defend. People who are genuinely great, people whose work and relationships are healthy and satisfying don’t do that. They take a completely different approach. When an event happens that is troublesome, they intentionally change their response (R) to the event (E) until they get the outcome (O) they want.

How do you do that? You must focus on the things over which you truly have control. You can’t change other people. But you can change the way you think, the way you communicate, your image of the world, and your behavior. Those are the things you can control, and they control your outcomes or results.

Truth be told, though, most of us are entrenched in our habits. They run our lives. We get stuck in routine responses to events, to our spouses and children, to our work colleagues, to our customers and our clients, to our students, and to the world at large. When events happen we have a routine response that is unhelpful, we don’t get the results or outcome we want, and life becomes harder than we imagined.

You have to gain control of your thinking and your behavior. Everything you think, say, and do must become intentional. When you align your thinking and your behavior intentionally with your purpose, your values, and your goals, you will no longer be driven by emotions and events, and your outcomes will we ones that satisfy and build.

If you don’t like your outcomes, change your responses. Don’t be driven by emotions. Slow down. Carefully choose how you respond to events. You must choose how you interpret events, then how to think and talk about what happened. Then you have to choose how you will act.

You control your destiny by your choices. Make sure you choose intentionally, not by default.