From a recent post on Jack’s Winning Words comes this little thought provoker – “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they’re always watching you.” (Robert Fulghum)
I believe that it’s true that our children learn from watching us and how we react to things that happen. They also learn about us from watching how we behave, as do others around us. You don’t have to become paranoid about it; but, it is something to keep in mind, that all of those who are around us on a daily basis either learn something about us from watching or they form some opinion about us based on those observations.
How many times have you seen someone that you didn’t know do something stupid and immediately you had had the reaction, “What a jerk.” You don’t really know if they are normally a jerk or not, but that was your first impression of them. If you were that person you certainly would hope that this isn’t their lasting impression of you, based upon that one incident.
Every lesson that I’ve ever seen or heard about how to deal with things (usually something requiring a reaction or resolution, such as an objection during a sales pitch) starts with the same piece of advice – pause. It is during that pause that you have the time to collect your thoughts before reacting or responding. It is that moment of reflection that may protect you from being perceived as a jerk, because it gives you the opportunity to respond better than you would have, had you made a knee-jerk reaction (maybe that’s why it’s called a knee-jerk reaction).
You might be surprised, if you pause, how fast your mind can work. You may have seen those sci-fi movies, like the Terminator series where the various options to a threat or problem flash by the cyborg eyes of the Terminator. Our minds can work like that, with several options being quickly presented to deal with the situation at hand. For Christians one option that should come to mind every time is the old standby, “What would Jesus do?” That is a great option because it makes us pause further to think about an answer to that question. Jesus never took the path of the jerk.
Another helpful mindset is to explore the options that an optimist might choose from, rather than visiting the dark list of the pessimist. I used to get angry (my own little version of road rage) when I missed making a stop light or turn signal while driving; but my wife kept calling me out on that and suggesting that I look at the positive side of things by celebrating that I would get to be first on the next green light. Now that has become a little joke for us when I miss a light. She gave me a different place to look for a response.
As you go through this week, keep in mind that all of those around you (including your children) are watching how you handle yourself and react to things that require a response. If you pause and keep the WWJD response in mind or start from an optimistic mindset, you are much less likely to be perceived as a jerk. If you are going to involuntarily be a role model anyway; at least focus upon being a good one.
Who’s watching you?