Unfortunately, fast reflexes and rapid responses are not always good things. They may look cool in action movies, but when it comes to character and personality traits in everyday life, rapid responses are often counterproductive and harmful. That’s something that is stressed time and again in the Book of Proverbs – the Bible’s book of distilled wisdom for everyday living. Notice these few examples from some different areas of life:
Proverbs 18:13 To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.
Proverbs 19:2b ... one who acts hastily sins. (HCSB)
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Proverbs 25:8 Don’t take a matter to court hastily. (HCSB)
Proverbs 29:20 Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool...
It can be a valuable study to look through the verses mentioning “haste” and “hurry” in Proverbs, but it’s not just that biblical book that decries hasty thoughts, words and deeds. Notice what the apostle James says in the New Testament: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19-20 ).
Why is this – why does the Bible so often condemn rapid response behavior? The answer is simply because our first reactions are almost always our most human ones – the ones based in our own human nature; and as a result, our rapid responses can sometimes be rabid responses (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19).
The right response often needs time for us to get over our primary emotional reaction – time to get our brain in gear and to remember the principles we have learned of God’s way of life. It’s only then, after we have taken the seconds, minutes or even hours we may need to arrive at an appropriate response, that we can be confident that our reaction is the right one – and in most of our interactions with others, a right response is better than a rapid response every time.
So take heart – even if you don’t have the super-fast response times of an action hero or a game console warrior – you may be better off with slower responses! In fact, it can often be a good decision to leave rapid responses to the professionals who need them in their work. In our own personal lives we need right responses so much more!