Holy in the Daily

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How to Respond to Unacceptable Behavior

What do you do when other people’s choices and behavior are unacceptable to you? Recently, this question popped up on my Author Susan Gaddis Facebook page. I can relate–who doesn’t struggle internally when those around you choose unacceptable ways of living and relating. Here are a few processing steps that can help:

Identify the action that is bothering you

Try to separate the action from the person who is choosing the action. You are called to love people, even if you don’t agree with their choices or actions. In your heart and mind, separate the person from the action they are choosing. Remember, God loves you even when your performance isn’t meeting with his approval.

Decide if the action is any of your business

Usually what you get upset about is not something for which you are responsible or can control. Therefore, it is none of your business. Ask yourself, “Whose business is this?” or “Who is choosing this behavior?” If the answer is not “me,” then you are not minding your own business.

Mind your own business, and stay out of other people’s business

You have enough to deal with in governing your own self; don’t take responsibility to govern another. God has not made you to be a busybody.

Set appropriate boundaries for yourself

Although you can’t control other people’s choices and behaviors, you can set boundaries for yourself. Learn to say something like, “I am not comfortable when you do (name the behavior). Therefore, I choose to (explain the action you will take to distance yourself from their behavior.)”

For example, if your spouse or parent consistently chooses to speak to you inappropriately, you might say, “I do not like to be yelled at. When you choose to speak to me in that intense tone of voice, I will leave the room.”

If the person is your child for whom you are responsible, you might say, “I can’t hear you when you use loud, angry words. I will look forward to hearing what you have to say when you can speak in a calmer tone of voice.”

It is hard to not let what other people do or say invade our thoughts and emotions when they choose to act in ways we don’t approve of. We can so easily become a “mental busybody” by wasting emotional and mental energy on something that we have no ability to control. We cannot control other people; we can only control ourselves. This is where our focus needs to be–how can we walk in love and grace with someone we disagree with?

Cultivate love and grace

People respond to love and grace, they do not respond well to someone they feel is trying to police their actions. Put your energies into walking in love and grace and choose to not focus on what you think is wrong. This will open far more doors to communication and relationship with people, which is where you will find you have a voice in their lives. Without love and grace, you have no voice–you are only a loud, clanging cymbal (see 1 Corinthians 13).

What have you found helpful in learning to relate to people who choose behavior you don’t agree with?

To growing, shaping, and sharing your legacy,

Susan Gaddis

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