Reactivity, anyone?

There is a lot of reactivity these days.  

To be fully transparent, I must acknowledge my own.  The other day I found myself telling a colleague about two people who were driving me crazy.  Now, who is that really about?! Reactivity for me is an indication that I’m over-extended.   I’ve lost the grace-space in which to welcome the other.  


When I’m over-extended and in need of a time-out, I want to say “piss off” to Henri Nouwen’s confession: “I used to complain about all the interruptions to my work until I realized that these interruptions were my work.”Really?!

Deep down, I know interruptions that are part of the fabric of life.   How we approach them determines whether they become gifts or distractions.  Invariably, when I allow myself to let go of my neatly constructed schedule, I find myself blessed by the one (or situation) to which I was earlier feeling reactive.

The Breath

For me, pressing through irritation begins with the breath.  A deep breath to center and focus.  Sometimes a number of deep breaths.  When centered, I am freed to listen with the ear of the heart and from the gut.  It is then that I once again connect to the inherent dignity of the person before me, while also honoring my own dignity and space. Moving beyond the heresy of the urgent, I slow down enough to hear the yearning beneath the words.  Yearning to be heard and understood.  When I fully listen, I can disentangle myself from the need to fix and instead hold the space to relate to the other, rather than react.


The origin of the word relate means to stand in relationship to; to have reverence.  Paul Woodruff in his book Reverence believes that to teach reverence, you must find the seeds of reverence in each person and help them grow.  He cautions us not to confuse reverence with religion; it belongs to community.  In a time when loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, nurturing community is essential for the care of soul, both of individual and collective.

There will always be people in our lives who give us energy, and others who drain us.  Some relationships support and delight.  Others challenge and refine.  Taken together, they have the potential to restore community: the context for our being, belonging and becoming.

Experiencing some reactivity?  Lean in.  You will likely find a gift awaiting you!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: