Last week someone told me directly they didn't think I practiced what I preached in an aspect of my life. I wanted to immediately respond with an explanation of why I was misunderstood or how their perception was wrong, but I stopped, I apologized, and I offered to make a change. Why? Because I remembered this principle: people will forget what you said but not how you made them feel.
Regardless of who was right, I had made this person feel bad. Have you noticed how it is nearly impossible to penetrate someone's thoughts when they're having a deeply emotional reaction? It's because often times you've activated the part of the brain that controls fear and our fight or flight response. Once someone enters that mode, it's really hard to make your point of view seen.
In this particular case I actually was wrong. The sad reality is that I haven't always been as mindful as I should about understanding before being understood. It's good to get a gut check every once in a while, even when it means admitting your faults.
I finished re-reading The Shack this past weekend. The timing was impeccable for this post, as I came across this reminder of how we are wired:
"Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions."
What, then, is my paradigm? How does that shape my perceptions that lead to my emotions that lead to my actions?
It's a good question to ask frequently, because how misguided can our emotions, that we feel to be right and justified, become when our paradigm is off?
My hope is that from a paradigm of love I will perceive the world through the eyes of Jesus, putting the needs of others before my own (with a heightened awareness of others' needs), and as a result, my unwavering emotion remains joy.
We feel so deeply as humans, and often, those feelings guide the direction of our lives. Before we are rational, we are emotional, and logic tends to come after the emotion to justify the decision.
Knowing this, the caution I give myself is two-fold:
1. Be careful with the hearts of others. It matters more how I make someone feel than the literal words I say with my mouth.
2. Be aware of my own tendency to put emotion before reason. I'm equally susceptible to let the blinders of emotion keep me from seeing the truth.
Emotion is like fire. It can be used to forge lasting connections, or left unbridled, can burn lives to the ground. As a bi-product of a beautiful paradigm and right perceptions, emotion is one of God's greatest gifts. Like romance in a healthy relationship, it's the fruit from the healthy source.
My own paradigm has been under review for some time now. Through my season of doubt and other circumstances in my life, I've been forced to redefine my core. I'm so grateful for the struggle, though. I've written out my paradigm, as recommended by someone who has been fundamental in helping me find peace. It's something I plan on sharing in the future, but for now, I'll end with this:
What is your paradigm?
What principles or beliefs resonate at your core and drive everything you perceive, then feel, and then do?