Do You React or Respond? ©
On the surface this seems like a rather obvious and trite question. Or is it? I’ll get back to that question later, but first let’s get a clearer picture of what I’m talking about here. The following definitions are taken from the Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary:
React: – intransitive verb
• 1: to exert a reciprocal or counteracting force or influence – often used with on or upon
• 2: to change in response to a stimulus
• 3: to act in opposition to a force or influence – usually used with against
Synonyms: respond, reply
Respond: – intransitive verb
• 1: to say something in return: make an answer
• 2a: to react in response
• b: to show favorable reaction
• c: to have a good or desired reaction to something
Synonyms: respond, reply
So, React and Respond (in addition to reply) are synonyms. Interesting, and yet what really distinguishes them is the relatively negative energy of React versus the relatively positive energy of Respond. In that respect, these two words don’t really sound like synonyms at all!
From the perspective of their formal definitions, these words appear to differ quite a bit in terms of their emotional underpinnings. It is all too tempting to assume that reacting is bad (negative emotions) and that responding is good (positive emotions). But the difference just isn’t as simple as positive versus negative energy. Is reacting to injustice a bad thing? Is it “right” or “wrong”? And why is responding positively to your Comfort Zone necessarily a good thing? Is it “right” or “wrong”? Could there be positive reactions? Or maybe negative responses?
• “From every experience comes a lesson. Just know that. There is no right or wrong, just learning.” ~ Maitreya (Newsletter # 208, February 5, 2008)
• “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616; English dramatist & poet)
In spite of their outer (and overly simplistic) appearances, good/positive and bad/negative are nothing more than judgments about a particular person, situation, or issue, and such judgments are primarily based on our emotions. Maitreya (channeled by Margaret McElroy), one of my wisest teachers, is very clear about this:
• “The whole purpose of your spiritual path is to let go of and move on from the emotional body. It is the emotional body which the Self hangs on to, holding on to the fear, doubt, jealousy, anger, greed etc.” ~ Maitreya (Newsletter # 193, December 11, 2004)
• “It is only the negative emotions which the Self clings to, uses, and abuses. That is the difference.” ~ Maitreya (Newsletter # 193, December 11, 2004)
There is an additional dimension on which these concepts differ that I believe is critically important in daily life. Implicit in the formal definitions (at least in terms of how people tend to think about and use them) is that they can be described as “knee-jerk, gut reactions” versus “reasoned and/or calculated responses.” In short, that dimension involves what I describe in the three Dancing with the Energy books as Unconscious Living (reacting) versus Conscious Living (responding). At a very simple level, Unconscious Living involves navigating through life on automatic pilot (habit), whereas Conscious Living takes a more proactive approach to life through reasoned, conscious choice and intention.
But even the notion of habit versus conscious intention is overly simplistic. It isn’t just a matter of “ready, fire, aim! (reacting out of habit)” versus “ready, aim, fire! (responding by making a conscious choice before speaking or acting). Oh, sure, that is an important component of Conscious Living, but there is more to it than just conscious choice over habit.
For example, reacting (supposedly negative) to injustice in a positive manner by working for systemic change is actually Aligning your life energies with your Higher Self. Isn’t that a positive thing? Or what about responding (supposedly positive) to your Comfort Zone by rejecting it in favor of seeking change in your life? That, too, is choosing to Align your life energies with Higher Self. In short, Alignment (one of the major precepts of Conscious Living as described in the three Dancing with the Energy books) is of paramount importance in the work of soul evolution.
I stated previously that “Conscious Living takes a more proactive approach to life through conscious choice and intention.” Intention to what? First, and foremost, intention to progressively Align your thoughts, emotions, and behavior more closely with Higher Self. Second, intention to place progressively less emphasis on the emotional body’s influence (the Lower Self) in your daily life. And finally, Conscious Living intentionally seeks to replace old, dysfunctional habits with new, more functional habits. All of that requires attention and effort—work, and only you can do that work for yourself.
• “Old habits die hard, but with a little faith and a lot of hard work, they die before you do!” ~ Dennis L. Dossett (Dancing with the Energy – Book 1: The Foundations of Conscious Living)
• “You may be a spiritual being having an earthly experience, but manifesting anything on the Earth plane requires that you take responsibility for doing your part. If you don’t put out the physical and/or mental energy required to Allow it to happen, it won’t happen. But your physical and mental efforts will be far more effective and efficient if you take vibrational action [Alignment] first!” ~ Dennis L. Dossett (Dancing with the Energy – Book 3: The Foundations of Conscious Living)
So, you see, reacting isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it all depends upon your Alignment with Higher Self. When your initial reaction (habit) comes from a space of unconditional love most (if not all) of the time, you reasonably can be assured that your behavior is in Alignment with Higher Self. Until then, I highly recommend Conscious Living (intentional Alignment + conscious choice + practice, practice, practice!) until you have created a response that becomes a new (and more functional) habit.
So, “Do You React or Respond?” It’s your choice; choose wisely.
Have a great month!