You reap what you sow.
You get what you pay for.
We have many colloquialisms that remind us to expect to be treated in the way we have treated others. It should be no surprise when our self-righteous anger generates self-righteous anger in response. We have been doing this since we were infants and first used our mirror neurons to understand and use emotions. When we do it as adults it is called complementary behavior – or complementarity.
When our spouse comes down the stairs in a nasty mood, nasty mood neurons are stimulated and we just might respond in kind. When a coworker treats us with kindness we are predisposed to react similarly. Likewise, if our child’s behavior indicates hopelessness and helplessness we compliment that behavior by giving help. We don’t even have to think about it. We simply react.
Non-complementarity, on the other hand, is responding in the opposite way of what is expected. Whereas complementarity will continue a behavior – anger begets anger. An unexpected response is more likely to change behavior.
Sometimes we have to give people what they need, not what they deserve.
A child expressing helplessness might be best helped with encouragement that another try will accomplish the task. Without the encouragement to keep at it, the child will continue to feel helpless. It might be just what is needed.
Similarly, the nasty mood of the spouse might be best helped with a healthy dish of empathy, a kind word, and an offer to help with a chore. It is not what is deserved, or expected, but probably what is needed.
Matching emotions is what comes naturally to us. Responding with the opposite emotion takes patience and consideration and that is an example of grace.
Think how God responds to our sin with forgiveness. How He handles our anger with love. How He reacts to our weak faith by applying His faith-nurturing Word and Sacraments. God gives us what we need, not what we deserve and this changes us.
In fact, it changes everything.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:7-9
We could not survive long in a world that only mirrored our actions and emotions. We cannot grow and learn in a world that only gives us what we deserve. We should not expect the people around us to improve with only are complementary responses.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. I John 4:18-19
With joy we are able to express this grace to others in our little worlds. We can meet anger with compassion, frustration with encouragement, meanness with forgiveness. We can do this because Jesus did it first. God’s blessings abound!
This link below is a fascinating, and hard to believe, story about a non-complementary response. The host of Invisibilia insists that no miracles occurred. As a fellow recipient of what we’ve needed instead of what we deserved– a fellow recipient of grace – I will let you decide.
Disarming a Robbery . . . With a Glass of Wine