We are living through unprecedented and uncharted times. A pandemic has seized our world, while social unrest and violence has swept into our major cities. Add to it all that it’s an election year and everything that is happening has become politicized.

It appears that the nation has never been more divided. It has put us on the edge, and I’m witnessing people I know speaking and acting in ways I would have otherwise never imagined.

How we respond to what’s happening in our world is as important as the events themselves.

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Respond to circumstances rather than reacting.

There is a difference. A response is thoughtful while a reaction often is “knee jerk” in nature. A response is measured, while a reaction often is the first thing that comes to mind and is usually emotional.

When we calmly respond, it often disarms and relaxes others to do the same. Reactions are what we see playing out on our streets and in social media.

Relax. Take a breath. The world is not coming to an end. The truth is that cable news, and reactions to it, are playing out on social media and encouraging us to believe otherwise. Don’t believe it. As bad as you might believe things are today, tomorrow the sun will rise and a new day will begin. Yes, take a breath and relax. A new day is coming.

Like the streets, Facebook can be dangerous territory. You might not get physically hit by a brick, but you certainly can suffer the loss of friendships and incite anger that dominates your life.

I rarely post anything on social media that is controversial. I use Facebook and other apps to keep up with friends and family, post my columns and news about my books. I’m a very casual social media user.

I’ve been following the COVID-19 issues with intense interest. The great mask debate rages on. For every medical professional that says masks are not helpful, there seems to be 25 that say they work.

I ran across a picture that showed how the virus is spread and how masks can help. The best data I can find say that masks can reduce the spread of the virus by up to 65%. Nothing is perfect. Certainly not a mask, but a 65% reduction is significant. We teach our kids to cough and sneeze into their arms. It’s also not perfect but better than coughing into the open. If true, isn’t a mask better than nothing?

So, I posted the graphic and commented, “I think this makes sense.” I didn’t expect the firestorm that quickly followed.

The first comment from a friend began, “You of all people should know better ...” (an example of a reaction rather than a response). Then came the numerous comments about “constitutional rights” and the idea that the pandemic is a “plan-demic” and a government conspiracy.

A friend of mine who is a doctor of 35 years posted a comment about the effectiveness of masks and a young nurse offensively offered him her nursing books, as if he was totally uninformed, and she had all the answers. It devolved quickly into a raging mess.

I chose to respond rather than react. Trust me, I easily could have let my emotions rage, but instead, I just deleted the post and went on with my day.

Yes, I was bothered and hurt by a few of the comments. But more than anything, I watched in wonderment as rational and smart people so openly and purposefully began attacking others who disagreed.

My response was to delete the posting and stop giving space for others to react in anger and immaturity. Once the post was gone, everything on my page normalized, and I assume everyone else went on with their day.

I’m not smarter or better than anyone else. I just choose to respond rather than react. I choose to be positive and not add fuel to the fire of negativity. Some do the same thing, while the majority do not.

To react or respond is a choice we make, just as being positive or negative or pessimistic or optimistic. These choices determine our success and quality of our lives. And yes, these choices determine our happiness.

Want to avoid losing friends? Choose to respond rather than react. Want to be happy? Choose to become an optimist.

Moore is a syndicated columnist. Follow him @GaryWMoore721 and at

www.garywmoore.com.