We live in a fast-paced world where instant gratification reigns supreme. Self-centered, ego-driven, and demanding people seem to be all over the place. There is a major lack of empathy and compassion in today’s cruel world and our culture is paying the price for it. I for one truly worry about the next generation and the harm that is being caused to our human connections. Technology has influenced our society in many positive ways yet it’s the negative impact that terrifies me. We barely speak on the phone any longer with each other. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? Most people walk down the street staring into a screen. The worst example is being out at a social gathering and nobody actually talking to each other because everybody is preoccupied with their cell. Don’t even get me started on family dinners with my teens!
Aren’t we are moving away from an important part of life? Learning how to develop and maintain close personal relationships is under attack and the irony is that we invented these devices to fulfill our purposes of communicating with others! Out of convenience, the precious times spent interacting with other people have become fewer and far between. I feel so many of us have learned to separate ourselves from our emotions for the sake of saving some time. Ending relationships by text isn’t acceptable because feelings are a messy thing. If I read an email that I disagree with or am hurt by, I can quickly react and write one back before really thinking through the consequences of sending it. It’s that knee jerk reactionary response to so much in life when it comes to our interactions that cause undue stress and pain.
There is a big difference between these two actions. Responding to something or reacting to it are choices that can have large and damaging repercussions. I have explored this idea in my own life for the last few years. I made it a priority in all my interactions but most importantly with myself and how I treated myself. Of course, it will never be perfect but it has become one of my works in progress. By learning to push that invisible pause button, imagine how much different outcomes in a wide range of situations could be! You get a mean text and instead of reacting impulsively, you respond thoughtfully. Not two seconds later either; you consciously decide to allow for some space between your thoughts, feelings, and actions (whether or not to respond or react). Too many of us purely react to everything in life. We look at everything as though the entire world is against us and we must always be on the defense. Does that mindset allow for space? How well does that serve us – not only as a society but in our individual lives? These are some of the questions I ask myself.
When I encounter a difficult person or situation in life it’s easy to react to them. It doesn’t require much thought, looking at it solely from the emotional side. If I can shift my thinking, push the pause button and allow for some space (even 15 seconds!) imagine what my response could be. Putting these ideas into practice helps them become automatic. I have a tendency to act impulsively, so this was a challenge for me at first. When I shifted my thinking to gauge what was more instinctive to my nature – a loving response or a hateful reaction it made all the difference.
In the end, it’s all about staying true to oneself. I must decide to respond or react by what I value in myself. I refuse to take on what others want to impress upon me based on their own skewed perceptions. We are so caught up in the judgments of others that our minds start agreeing with them! Mostly, I choose to respond to life in a kind and gentle way. Yes, when I’m met with anger and hatred it would be easy to react with more of the same but ultimately that doesn’t make me feel really good. I end up with regrets, nobody wins or even learns anything from that kind of interaction.
More of us need to push that pause button. Respond with empathy and react with loving compassion. These are the human qualities that are virtually disappearing from too many people around us. I hope you can find your pause button and allow for some space. The next generation is watching.
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