On the importance of pausing

I had an interesting experience last night. On seeing someone’s post on Facebook I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I knew my reaction was a little off, because the comment was fair. All that had happened was that this person had shared an article that I had posted but highlighting quite a different angle. This person hadn’t commented on my original post at all. (It was clear from Facebook that my posting had been the source of her posting).

As I sat and reflected on it, untangling the mess. I realised that actually what had happened for me was that one my faultlines had been triggered. I have a real problem with people being critical behind my back. I have some major baggage on that one.

As I sat with this I realised that actually none of what had happened was personal. The opinion that the other person expressed was perfectly valid and fair. It wasn’t necessary at all to respond directly to my post (although I do wish she had).

The point of writing about this at all is to say that this small incident could so easily have become a big deal. Either by responding too quickly on Facebook, or simply because I happen to be seeing this particular person fairly soon and I could so easily have been quite frosty! All over a complete non-incident that just happened to trigger a major reaction in me because of my own history.

I wonder how often substantial conflict could be avoided if we were just a little more self-aware, and a little less inclined to take things personally.

I am reminded again of the wise words of Ignatius of Loyola that ‘every good Chris­tian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.’

Perhaps we can add to the wisdom of Ignatius by reminding ourselves that a person holding a different opinion is not a personal attack!

2 thoughts on “On the importance of pausing

  1. Thank you! After a difficult meeting yesterday and with the need to draft a diplomatic email later today — I’m glad for your gentle reminder of the power of a pause, a deep breath and a willingness to crane my neck a bit to see what the other person has glimpsed (even if it is not my preferred view!).

  2. Thank you for this, to which I arrive a couple of days late. And not because I paused!

    About a half an hour ago, I had a strong reaction to a friend’s FB post, not for the same reasons as you, but because I found it so callous. I’m not sure that this was any better, but rather than comment, I sent her a note.

    Your words remind me – along with Michelle’s comment – that a pause and even the slightest opening of my heart – can do a world of good. Thank you.

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