Georgia pastor says this superpower enables us to do a lot of things.
Andy Stanley and his wife: Photo from Wikimedia
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
When I was a kid, I couldn’t decide between flying and being invisible. I imagined soaring over my town straight up into the clouds, but I also dreamed of being invisible and spying on people.
Maybe you’re more altruistic than me, and your superpower would be finding a cure for cancer or feeding every starving person on earth.
I used to watch Superman movies and consider how great it would be if somebody had the power to thwart evil and ensure justice.
One friend said his superpower would be time travel, so he could go back and change history.
After half a year of sheltering in place, some of us might travel back to January 1 and try to do something to avert Covid-19.
But we know times rolls on, we can’t change the past, and the closest we can get to flying is hang gliding, parachuting, or riding an airplane.
Yet what would you say if I told you we all have one superpower, we can use it whenever we want, it can change the outcome of any situation, and it can redirect the course of our life?
A Georgia preacher says we do have that kind of superpower. Andy Stanley, best-selling author and founder of North Point Ministries said, “Your superpower, my superpower is our ability to respond, our respond-ability, our ability to choose a response rather than simply react to circumstances.”
According to Stanley, this superpower enables us to do a lot of things. It empowers us to turn wrong things into right things.
It empowers us to thwart the evil intent of people who wish us evil. It even has the power to reverse the course of our life. “If you engage your superpower, you will be better for it, and you will be better in every single major arena of life.”
“How would someone respond if they were absolutely sure God was with them?” Stanley asked.
Responding Rather Than Reacting
I was reminded of Stanley’s words the other day on a zoom conference when the discussion was about responding rather than reacting. The group leader asked, “Have you ever had a time when you reacted to something out of emotion, then later regretted it?”
I can think of a lot of times, but one time jumps out more than the others. Years ago, my husband was laid off from his job and his former manager called to tell him there was a non-compete clause.
He couldn’t accept a job offer with a competitor or the company might sue him.
Listening to my husband’s measured responses and watching his grave expression, I jerked the phone from his hand and told his former manager if we ever heard from him again, we would hire a lawyer and sue.
My husband was appalled, although he laughs about it now.
I’ve done a lot of other impulsive things, responding from emotion rather than thoughtfulness.
When we first got married, I would storm out the door and roared off in the car if we had an argument. I didn’t know where I was going, so I always returned sooner or later to face up to the reason for our argument.
We overreact when we don’t try to understand another person’s point of view, when we magnify things in our minds, when we take things too personally, or when we make everything all about us.
There is a response that makes situations worse, and there is a response that begins to reverse the course of events.
Stanley says, “To simply react sets us up to reflect those circumstances. The response that has the potential to reverse events isn’t natural. We’re least likely to choose that response.”
In other words, it’s natural to give in and react, but if we want to change things for the better, we might have to act in an unnatural way.
We see overreaction everywhere these days; the driver who goes into a rage because somebody is driving too slowly; the person who has a meltdown over somebody’s careless remark.
Georgia state transportation officials, reeling from the snow and ice that paralyzed Atlanta highways during a snowstorm in 2014, said they “overreacted” by warning motorists of a winter storm watch that had not in fact been issued.
People panicked, roads were clogged, and the entire city came to a standstill.
A Frenzy of Overreaction
Georgia man Joey Camp, 30, says the US is overreacting to the coronavirus. He got sick with the virus last year and was the first Georgian placed into an RV quarantine camp run by the state.
When he emerged from quarantine, he was shocked to find people wearing gloves and masks. He was also shocked to lose his job as a line cook at Waffle Cook when businesses were forced close due to the outbreak.
Since March of 2020, people have debated whether Georgia’s response to the pandemic was overreaction or the oppositive; not taking enough action.
This sort of debate has raged all over the country. A frenzy of overreaction makes it hard to debate reasonably without demonizing anybody with a different opinion.
We refuse to consider that somebody who doesn’t think like we do might have some valid ideas. Instead, we believe they are evil.
Overreaction leads to anger, irrationality, selfishness, destruction and broken relationships. It doesn’t lead to bridge building, compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness or personal growth.
We react out of emotions stemming from those thoughts and feelings that have been swirling close to the surface, ready to erupt.
The things we dwell on, the stuff we put into our minds, the people we surround ourselves with influence us. We become what we think about and immerse ourselves in.
Yet when we continue to react from our emotions, we continue to feel powerless. Everything overwhelms us and nothing seems to change.
Stanley said, “Never underestimate the power of a measured response.”
But how do we cultivate a measured response? How do we go against nature and ingrained habits?
First, we need to control what we put into our minds. We need to be ready when unexpected events assail us to respond in a manner that paves the way for solutions.
The attributes we cultivate will eventually become part of our nature, and the attitudes we cultivate will ultimately be revealed, no matter how much we try to hide them.
To transform the outward life, we need to transform the inner and private life, surrounding ourselves with what we want to become.
We can't go on Twitter everyday and lambast everybody without eventually carrying that hostility into everyday life.
We can't surround ourselves with negative people without eventually becoming negative.
We can't dwell on what other people do without eventually starting to feel helpless and out of control. We can only control our own thoughts, speech, actions, and reactions. And we can only do that by surrounding ourselves with the sort of influences that bring out the best in us.
A Native American Tale
A Native American proverb tells the story of the continuous battle being waged within each one of us:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
We all have the same superpower, and we can use it to transform our lives, but we have to feed and nurture that part of our nature.
We can’t change the past or control anyone else’s response to events. But we can change our own future by responding instead of reacting. That’s our superpower.