I have learned the value of pausing the hard way–by jumping in without thinking, thus making snap decisions without contemplating consequences or consulting the Creator.
Because I didn’t pause long enough to prayerfully gain perspective on many situations, I’ve made lots of mistakes. Big ones. Some were not fixable.
The good news is that after repeatedly paying the price for not pausing, I now tend to pause.
Sure, emergency and life-or-death situations require me to skip the pause. I’m not going to stand on the edge of the swimming pool while someone drowns because I have to first weigh the pros and cons of attempting to save his life. That’s just stupid.
I’m talking about pausing when I can, when it won’t be detrimental to anyone in any way, and when I have the option to take a few moments before moving in any direction.
I first learned about the value of the pause from my friend Dana. I learned some volatile information pertaining to my love life at the time, and Dana told me not to do anything or say anything until I’d prayed about it and waited for 24 hours. That was the longest 24 hours of my life. Holding it in and not letting my emotions take charge felt excruciating. However, those 24 hours allowed me time to cry, pray, think, and weigh my options. It also converted some of my emotional knee-jerk reactions into purposeful responses. I made a better decision regarding the situation because I paused.
Over the past four years, I’ve paused more and lurched forward less.
I’m less likely to be motivated by status or salary. Whereas I used to frantically revise my resume and apply for a job if it paid more or seemed more important than the one I had, I now take the time to consider what really matters. How many hours of my precious time on this earth will it take to do my best? How much more stress would it scrape onto my plate? What would I gain, and what would I lose in order to gain it?
I’m more likely to make decisions that help rather than harm. When I’m offended, rather than open my mouth with a hateful or passive-aggressive and sarcastic comeback, I tend to pause to give myself time to formulate a more rational, polite, and beneficial response. Or I say nothing at all. Not only does this typically diffuse hostile situations, but it also leads to a shorter list of things I regret and people I must make amends to. It also makes me feel better about myself and my level of maturity.
I’m not as prone to grab at what I want. I don’t purchase anything impulsively anymore. I keep a close eye on my budget, and my definitions of “need” and “want” have become more realistic. I find that if I pause long enough, I’ll determine that 90% of the time, I don’t need the whatever-it-is after all.
I’m also less likely to manipulate others for the sake of gratifying myself and managing outcomes, AKA controlling everyone and everything around me. If I pause, it gives me time to pray about what I’m about to say or do and to question my own motives. Am I trying to gain something by doing or saying that? Would it be better for me and the other person to let God handle the results (since, in fact, He is God)?
Pausing has saved me heartache, regret, and guilt. It’s whipped my bank account back into shape. It’s allowed me to make decisions I tend to stand by because the first decision is more often the right one now. Pausing gives me time to pray, to thank God for the beauty around me, and to open my hands to release the reins into His.