Three Questions You Must Ask Before Reacting

This devotional was written by Lysa TerKeurst.2-proverbs-31-ministries

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

My heart raced when I saw the number pop up on my phone. Nothing in me wanted to have this conversation. I was beyond aggravated. Hurt. Angry. And tired of being misunderstood.

I answered the call with two goals in mind — to prove how right I was and how wrong the other person was.

How do you think that conversation went?

Not well.

This conflict happened over five years ago so the rush of emotion has dissipated, and I can see more clearly how wrong my approach was.

I learned from that conflict. Hopefully, I learn something from every conflict — especially how to have better reactions. I’m so far from being in a place where I can shine my halo.

But I’m getting better.

While my initial thoughts when a conflict arises are usually those same old “I’ll show you” thoughts, I’ve progressed by not letting those leak into my reactions.


By asking myself three questions:

1. What part of this issue can I own and apologize for?

There are always two sides to every issue. And no side is perfectly right or all the way wrong.

If I make peace with the part I need to own and apologize for before the conversation, there’s a greater chance I’ll stay calm in the conversation. Our key verse, Proverbs 15:1, is a verse I’ve memorized and recall often, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

2. How can I soften my heart toward this person so I honor them despite how they react?

This one is hard. Really hard. But I know hurt people hurt people.

Usually the person with whom I’m having a conflict has some kind of past or current hurt in their life feeding this issue. Chances are that hurt doesn’t have anything to do with me but is adding to their emotional response in this conflict.

Softening my heart is easier if I can sympathize with the hurt I can’t see. If I can duck below my pride, honor will be my reward. Proverbs 29:23 reminds us, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (NIV).

3. If I knew this conversation was being recorded and then shared with people I greatly respect, how would this change my reaction?

What if I showed up to church this week and my pastor directed everyone to watch the screen for an example of a bad reaction? And then my face appeared. Have. Mercy. I. Would. Surely. Faint.

While it is highly unlikely that our conversation would be recorded and viewed, it is very likely others are watching our reaction. Children. Co-workers. Friends. But here’s the one that really grabs my heart – my Jesus is very much present. Philippians 4:5 reminds us, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near”(NIV).

Every conflict has variables that must be considered. Some conflicts have escalated to the point where professionals must be asked to help. Be mindful and prayerful about this.

But for the everyday conflicts we all have, these questions are good to consider. If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don’t have to live with “reaction regret” in the long-term!

Dear Lord, I’m inviting You into my reactions today as I realign my perspective. Help me to use words and choose actions that honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 18:21, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose.” (MSG)

James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV)




I mentioned the other day that I wouldn’t be writing anything original this week because my kids are on Spring Break.  Normally I share my morning devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries on Scully Speaks Facebook Page.  I know that not everyone sees the Facebook page though, so today I wanted to bring it straight to you!  

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15 thoughts on “Three Questions You Must Ask Before Reacting

  1. I really needed to read this. I have been struggling with an issue with someone who in my heart I know was wrong. I was so hurt by the situation and have yet to talk to them about it. I want to say… almost 3 years has gone by without speaking to them. For the longest time I’ve been thinking about what I would say if/when I ever spoke to them again and how I would point out all the things I did wrong. Reading this has given me a VERY important reminder that there are always two sides to a story and perception is everything. For all I know, the person doesn’t even understand exactly why I’m even hurt.

    I’m not going to lie and say that I’m anywhere near ready to even be in the same room as them, but I know that with prayer I might get to the point where we can at least hash out our issues. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • I’m so happy to hear that this will help you move in the direction toward forgiveness and peace in that situation 🙂 If you ever decide to take a step towards approaching them, I’d love to hear how it goes for you no matter how it turns out. If you need to talk about it more privately you can always msg me on my blog’s facebook page or DM me on twitter @scullyspeaks. You can also email me although I don’t check that except a couple times a week at best. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing. I especially love point 3! It’s funny how most times, we often think of the people around us first before we think of God. A powerful reminder that we should be more concerned about what God thinks first.

  3. I’ll be frank and admit that I’ve often lamented the fact that the majority of Christians (I use the term loosely) spend all their time and energy on ‘fixing’ sinners, they rarely have the time or energy left to right the wrongs in themselves. ‘Remove the plank from thine own eye before attempting to remove the speck from thy brother’s’ (going from memory, so I may be off with my wording, it’s been a while) seems to be grossly overlooked.

    Your post conveys true Christ-like spirit that is refreshing… and also very much along the lines of my most recent topic of reflection and independent self-improvement study. We’ve arrived at almost the exact same conclusion, although we’ve used different routes to reach them. 🙂

    It does my heart good to see some Christians still trying to be Christ-like.

    My father gets quite put out with me when I casually comment that some rude or unsympathetic or unkind comment he’s made didn’t sound very Christ-like. Quite put out. I love him to pieces, but he was the beginning of my disillusionment with ‘Christians’ as a whole.

    Thanks for alleviating that just a little.

    Oh, and it’s a great post. I enjoyed it and agree with it wholeheartedly.


    PS – For the record I consider myself a Christian… albeit quite a backslidden one.

  4. Great post! The “if I knew this conversation was being recorded….” question is the one I try and use! It is a great motivator in getting me to take my time and not react…. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. “There are always two sides to every issue. And no side is perfectly right or all the way wrong.” So well said! This post made me think my own behavior in conflict situations 🙂

  6. excellent post; partnerships require that two sides be presented and heard in all situations
    Thank you so much for following and providing me with the opportunity to discover your very exciting blog. Eddie

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