Stimulus and Response

When my older boy gets in trouble, he’ll go to any and all lengths to explain why it wasn’t his fault. He will happily throw anyone under the bus in order to divert any negative attention from himself. His mom and I are in the process of trying to teach him about responsibility (and accountability, for that matter).

What I’ve been thinking about lately is that so many people these days need to learn that lesson as well. God may well be creator, sustainer, beginning and end, but we have ultimate responsibility for our lives and the decisions we make.

We choose direction in our lives by how we respond to the circumstances that occur in it, whether they are positive or negative.

Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl says:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

I think that is so true. I would also say that how we respond affects the lives of others and not just our own.

Frankl also says

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

That is also true. The other day I told my son about something that happened at work a couple years ago that very much could have affected our future, and certainly my ability to provide for my family.

I was driving to a remote test site down a dirt road, and I was last in a group of four or five trucks. Consequently, I was eating a great deal of dust. There was no wind and the dust just hung in the air. Everyone was also going very fast, and the main group began to pull away from me.

It was then several things happened at once. I realized I couldn’t see the sides of the road. I hit some bad washboards in the surface of the road and began to fishtail. I attempted to correct, overcompensated, and veered offroad, flipping my truck over and destroying a government vehicle.

That was bad. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, it could have been much worse.

I had to go before a review board and account for what happened. I could have tried to avoid blame and responsibility by blaming all sorts of things and people, but something told me not to, and I just told the truth: I was speeding, even though I couldn’t see well. How could I deny it was my fault?

I told my son (and I firmly believe) that what saved my job was that I accepted responsibility for my actions. The stimulus was the accident. My response was to be honest, even though I knew the cost could be great.

I’ve also been trying to admit to my son when I make mistakes, and to apologize when that is what’s needed. I think one of the larger problems these days is so many people have forgotten how to do that.

Rather, people blame their circumstances for things that happen in their lives, or to excuse the things they do. They blame parents, or teachers, or friends. They blame anyone rather than say, “Yes, I did it. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

We usually do not ask for the negative things that happen in our lives. We don’t have any control over the people that do or say hurtful things, or sometimes literally do hurt us.

But between the stimulus of what happens and the response we make lies a space…

We get to choose our response. With honesty and the acceptance of personal responsibility lies growth. With blame and denial lies stagnancy.

I think that’s where we are now as a society, as a generation.

Our place in life may not be our fault, and sometimes that place truly sucks. Or it could be completely different. Maybe everything is great.

It’s how we respond to those circumstances that determines the true course of our lives.

Life can and often will be so tough. Mine was, at times. I believe what brought me through it to the place I am now is the millennia-old sacrifice of a Nazarene carpenter a world away from Arizona.

I didn’t know much about Jesus at the time I was going through certain things. Yet when he brought healing to the person I am now he also brought healing to the person I was then.

Or think about it like this:

The stimulus was God saw what the world was becoming and had become. It was a fallen and often Godless place, and it needed something to change or all would be lost.

The world needed a savior (and it still does).

God’s response was to send his son as propitiation for the world’s sin and brokenness–for its fallen nature. That response gives us freedom.

If we look at the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalves as stimulus, I wonder how we will choose to respond?

Would that affect our willingness to accept personal responsibility for our actions (and reactions)?

I believe it would.

What would happen if we admitted our wrongs, or gave thanks for our “rights?”

What would happen if we were able to say “Yes, I did it. I’m sorry, please forgive me?”

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Author: twilk68

God has changed my life, and changed me. It's that simple. I will ever be grateful, and if I live to be...well, OLD, I will never tire of telling people about the work done in my life, and what can be done in theirs, should they trust God with their innermost everything...

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