It’s been a tough week.

How do we process what we feel? How do we change circumstances?

Dialogue and posts are great, but they tend to fade away once we accept what has occurred.

I don’t want to oversimplify the complexity of the week’s events, or the challenges of our unique lives. But even the most complex issues necessitate an understanding of our behavior.

I was thinking about this the other night when I read that a 13-year-old girl in Chicago, Trisha Prabu, developed software called “Rethink”.

She researched the adolescent brain, recognized that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed (that’s where decision making occurs), and created a program that requires teens to “rethink” before publishing a post.

Her research found that the desire to post something unkind dropped dramatically when teens were asked to rethink what they were about to share.

Adults have developed prefrontal cortexes, but we could probably benefit from an occasional “rethink”.

Our busyness, or maybe our strong desire to be heard, tends to result in impulsivity, or a belief that our behavior is somehow justified.

We look around at others and blame them for our suffering. But our suffering is our own, often caused by our belief system, our past hurts, our inability to see outside of the tunnel vision we have created.

That doesn’t mean we don’t speak up if we have been hurt, but speaking up doesn’t mean fighting or harming. Just like being an attentive parent doesn’t mean yelling or shaming. Somehow we have entwined speaking up with aggression, and setting boundaries with creating fear.

We can share opinions without hurting others. We can be treated unfairly without retaliating. We can be frustrated and not yell at the ones we love most. We can be annoyed at our spouse and not be demeaning.

We always have choices. We can always rethink how we choose to act.

Don’t hurt people knowingly. Especially people you love. If you are frustrated, take responsibility for your feelings. Feel them, have compassion for your humanness. Then create space between the feeling and how you respond.

As I always say to my kids, there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, but what you do with it is another story. Aggression of any form, words or hands, will not make you feel better, and it will not resolve the problem.

It will create more pain – possibly for the person you hurt, but definitely for you.

And then you perpetuate a cycle of pain. It gets spread around and we start to think it’s the natural way of people. But it’s not.

The latest proof is from this 13-year-old girl in Chicago, a girl who took the initiative to reduce cyberbulling. Her research proved that if we have time to “rethink”, we choose what’s right. We choose compassion, we choose connection.

And this is so important, because as we have learned this week, most people are struggling with something, even if it doesn’t appear that way.

And if we choose to be kind, we may shift a perspective, offer hope, save a life.

When we slow down enough to look at our choices and behavior, and when we take responsibility for who we are and what we put out in the world, we find that spewing negativity is not the best way to get our needs met.

The work to rethink can be challenging, a life-long practice, but once we give it a go we see how it works.

We feel the difference between aggression and compassion. We witness our ability to make beneficial change. We reap the benefits of putting out something good. 

One “rethink” at a time.