Being a longtime, devoted Ohio State fan, I was interested to read consultants Tim and Brian Kight have been working with the Buckeye football team to help foster consistent success both on field and off. An “equation” they use caught my attention, one anyone could find useful – even those who detest the Scarlet and Gray.
This is not a mathematical construct, but rather an easy-to-learn acronym for addressing circumstances people encounter in everyday life: E + R = O. This stands for Event + Response = Outcome.
This seems straight-forward enough. Many events in our lives are beyond our control. But we usually can determine our response to the events, good or bad. The combination of the two leads to outcomes that can significant impact the future.
Joni Eareckson Tada is a classic example of how E+R=O can work in a very positive manner. One day as an energetic, healthy teenager, Joni dove into a lake, unaware how shallow it was. Her neck broke, leaving her a quadriplegic. That was, for purposes of this discussion, her “event.”
Joni candidly writes her initial response was despair and suicidal thoughts. Being paralyzed, she was unable to act upon her desperate feelings, and over time accepted her circumstances. She drew upon her trust in God, turning to Him out of helplessness and resolving to do all she could to make lemonade out of the lemon life had served her. With the help of family members and friends, she studied the Bible, prayed, sought counsel, underwent rehabilitative treatments, and began exploring skills and activities that didn’t require the use of hands or legs. These steps comprised her “response.”
Her “outcome”? Through faith, determination and just plain hard work, Joni honed her innate talents to become an internationally known author, painter, speaker and singer. She founded a multi-faceted ministry, Joni & Friends, dedicated to serving individuals and families confronted with many forms of disability and suffering. And she’s been happily married more than 30 years.
Most of us, of course, won’t experience events as extreme as hers. But whether it’s a screaming child in the grocery store; an irate customer that spews all manner of venom without cause; a driver making an obscene gesture on the roadway; or something that suddenly turns a well-planned schedule upside down, how we respond to those events will shape the outcomes, sometimes long-term.
We’ve all heard of people overcoming negative circumstances not of their doing to achieve greatness. Some of the strongest, long-term marriages are those in which both spouses resolved to weather major struggles. And success in athletics, of course, is often predicated on responding to great adversity.
The Bible also speaks eloquently about how outcomes are shaped by our response to events. For instance, James 1:2-4 urges followers of Christ to “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This doesn’t mean being happy about hardships, but we can feel confident they will be used for our ultimate good.
When wronged, often our first impulse is to retaliate, but Jesus taught a very different response to such events. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:29). Rather than escalating the conflict, Jesus was proposing a more peaceable, conciliatory reaction.
Negative feelings we harbor long after adverse events have passed can prove harmful for ourselves, as well as relationships with others. So the Scriptures advise us to release those emotions and their damaging impact. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
So remember E+R=O. The next time you encounter a troublesome event, try to keep a proper perspective. How you respond could greatly affect the ultimate outcome.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.