Responding vs. Reacting

Responding vs. Reacting
October 4, 2013 Rev. Robert Meagher


The sound of shattering glass; it is one of the most startling sounds there is.  It also happens to be a very common sound we react to.

My partner has Parkinson’s disease.  As the disease progresses, my partner’s ability to grasp and hold on to items diminishes.  Recently, my partner and I have gone through the unsettling, yet rejuvenating, experience of moving to a new home.

As you know, the process of moving involves packing up the contents of your home.  On more than one occasion, as I was occupied packing up items in one room, the sound of broken glass reverberated throughout the house as my beloved partner dropped a plate, a glass, or some other fragile object on the floor in another room.  The first time I heard the sound of glass shattering, I reacted by running to the room to make sure my partner was okay.  I thought I was doing the right thing by reacting this way; I thought I was being caring and helpful.

During the ensuing days of our packing, the sound of broken glass echoed throughout our home more than once (stated with a gentle and compassionate smile).  Each subsequent time I heard the sound of breaking glass, I became less likely to run to the room where the object had fallen to the floor and broken.  From a light-hearted perspective, I quickly realized to listen for the sound of my partner cursing at his clumsiness.  As long as I heard his cries of woe for another shattered family heirloom, I knew he was okay.  After hearing his cursing finish, I would simply call out… “let me know if you need me to clean up.”

As serendipity and spirit would have it, within a week of the last broken dish being swept into the garbage, I came across an article that spoke about the paradigms of helping versus being of service.  The author suggested that our goal should not be one of helping people but being of service to them.  The author went on to explain that the paradigm of helping presupposes inequality; that having an attitude of helping someone assumes the person is helpless and/or fractured.  However, when we come from a space of service, we come to the person on a level playing field; we establish an atmosphere of equality in serving them.  We enable the people to remain in a space of independence, pride and self-sufficiency.

The concepts in the article on helping versus service were timely indeed.  I realized that the first time I heard glass breaking, I reacted and immediately went into “I need to help” mode.  While this may have been the customary socially-accepted convention, the act of reacting actually presupposed inequality.  My reacting assumed my partner was helpless and/or fractured.  After several more episodes of shattering glass, I came to realize that by not reacting to the sound of broken glass and waiting to hear my partner was actually okay, and then calling out “let me know if you need me to clean up”, was an act of responding to my partner.  In responding to my partner, I was being of service.

I am not suggesting to stop being helpful to your fellow brothers and sisters.  But I am suggesting you explore what possibilities there are to be of service.  The difference between helping and serving, or reacting and responding, may be subtle from an intellectual perspective.  But there are significant differences from a heart perspective.

Be gentle and kind in your service to each other.


Shanti, Namaste, Agapé,


Rev. Robert Meagher


Photo Credit:

About the Author:



Robert Meagher worked for almost 25 years in traditional corporate settings and acted in various management roles in the education, arts, financial, not-for-profit, government, consulting, and healthcare sectors. Along the way Robert earned bachelor and masters degrees and professional certifications. Robert left corporate Canada in 2009 to set himself adrift and explore a new way of living and seeing the world we live in.  Robert is now an Interfaith Minister who embraces a spiritual life and now serves to guide all those who wish to accept the Divine into their lives.  Through Spiritual Guidance, Robert’s ministry initiative, he embraces the opportunity to serve those who wish to explore their own spirituality and gain insight into who they are, their purpose here in this lifetime and existence, and their desire to grow in Spirit.  Robert can be reached at 613-204-0299, [email protected], or through his website at




Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.