Why is it that folks try to change others rather than themselves? We assume that things between us and another person would be better if they would only change to be more like us. Of course, the answers are somewhat obvious. To change ourselves would be more work, criticism of others puffs us up and to make fixing the relationship the other persons problem means we don’t have responsibility and we aren’t wrong.
But, on the other hand, this really doesn’t make any sense. Big surprise there, eh? God’s way makes more sense. What I mean is, we have no control over the other person. There is little we can do to get them to change. We can, however, change ourselves. Well, at least we have a much better chance of changing us than we do of changing them.
This begs the question, do we really want to fix the situation or do we just want to feel better about ourselves? If healing is what we want, then changing ourselves makes much more sense. Instead, we focus on what the other party needs to do or be to make the problem disappear.
Many times we may be absolutely right, they do need to change, it would be the ‘best way’ to fix the situation. But we cannot make that happen, we cannot force them to be different. Telling them how they ought to be likely only raises their defenses and their resistance. In fact, the best way to encourage that may be to change our own tactics. More grace, more understanding, more patience, more forgiveness, more love.
I don’t know exactly my point here, other than I want to take folks as they are and love them like Jesus. I want to stop thinking about how they ought to be and start wondering how I ought to respond. I think that Jesus knew coming down here that we were all sinful wretches. We had no idea the trouble we wrought, or maybe we did but simply didn’t now any other way to be. Those that came to Jesus were doing the best they could, but it was far, far short of what they ought to do. Jesus took them at face value, didn’t excuse their sin, but didn’t wag his finger in disgust either. He didn’t say to them, “If you were only _____” or “If you only did _____, things would be fine.” Instead, he accepted them as they were, he offered grace and forgiveness and only then challenged them to change.
When I’m confronted with someone who’s less than loving, harsh or whatever, like Jesus I want to assume that they are doing the best they know how. They either know not what they do, or they know but just don’t know how to be anything else. I want to respond first with acceptance and grace and only then offer. I certainly hope that folks would do that for me, because there are times that I know that I’m not in a good place, but I don’t know any other way to be, at that moment. I just hope that people would know that I’m doing the best I can, and give me some space and some grace and I’ll try to do the same for them.

7 thoughts on “Change

  1. Good point- changing ourselves is probably the best way to make a bad situation seem better. But how do you get from being reactive to people in a negative way to assuming the best about them? Do you have any favorite scriptures on the subject?

  2. Oh sure!!! You just come back from vaca and you go and post a convicter! (thanks…)
    I’m with you. When I am not being spiritual, it is hard to see how to be spiritual. (uugh! what a stupid sentence…but I must leave it intact.)
    I mean, I know that my response to something is not spiritual. And I know that there is a way to respond that IS spiritual. But for the life of me, when I am struggling it is impossible for me to see the “right way.”
    I just pray that others will have the patience with me that I need, and that I will, in turn, offer them the same grace and patience when they are a bit “off.”
    One of my faves for when some one is being a “thing” is 1 Cor. 6:7b
    Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
    I know it’s out of context, and that it’s talking about lawsuits among the brothers, but the principle fits for anytime unity is threatened. If the brothers had simply forgiven and moved on, even if not in firm agreement, then unity would result and lawsuits would have been somebody else’s problem.
    Just my thoughts…

  3. As I’m reading your post I’m thinking to myself this is why I love this guy, he’s got his book open to the same pages that mine is open to. We seem to be very much at the same point of our Spiritual walk, maturity, sanctification. We’re both realizing that we’re where any changes that are going to happen need to start.
    I’m helping teach a class on Conflict Management, which is a hoot if you know me because I am “Conflict”. 2 weeks ago I was working us through the whole issue of getting the log out of our eyes before addressing the splinter in our brother (or sisters) eye. I opened up by reading your post entitled Someday – http://www.salguod.net/weblog/archive/001141.shtml
    There was plenty of head nods going on as I read your thoughts on seeing people the way that we should and not with all our baggage coloring our judgment and making us so judgmental.
    Thanks for another thoughtful post Doug.
    Hey on the up side I always thought life should be all about me, now I’m seeing that it is. Bummer when you figure out what that really means. Excuse me while I go pick up my cross and try to shuffle on a bit further.

  4. Brian,
    I’ve been thinking about what scriptures I’d use and I’m not sure it’s real easy. I’m finding that some of the things we’re meant to get, or maybe that I’m meant to get, are not so easy to proof text with a verse or two. They are concepts that come from observing life and comparing it to scripture as a whole asn seeing the pattern that isn’t explicit, but is clear, if that makes sense.
    I think the one Jeff refers to is a good one, but doesn’t quite get to the heart of what I’m talking about. More than just giving up a fight that we might win, this is looking at someone’s sin and deciding to love them where they are rather than trying to drag them to a place where you can love them more easily.
    I think about Jesus telling us to love as He did (John 13:34-35). Of course, that means we must study Jesus and how he loved. Look at him with the Samaritan woman (John 4). Most Jews would even talk to her because of who she was. Jesus looked past that and was willing to treat her like a human being, and he knew her deepest, sinful secrets. How about the woman caught in adultery (John 8)? Yes, Jesus told her to change, but not before offering her real, tangible grace, grace that saved her life. He knew she was guilty, she knew she was guilty, but Jesus stepped into an angry mob of authority figures to rescue her anyway. (I also love how Jesus treats her with dignity. Seeing as she was ‘caught in the act’, she was likely barely dressed, a humiliating situation. Jesus avoids looking at her, stooping down to scribble in the dirt.)
    Romans 14 is another. You could talk until you’re blue in the face about why it’s OK for you to eat meat, but the brother who feels otherwise is not likely convinced. I think that too many of us would shake our heads at them and dig in to our cheeseburger. Paul says love them where they are and have a salad instead.
    I’m sure there are more, but lunch time’s over and I’ve got to get back to work. 🙂

  5. Are you talking about not making others stumble? Or are you talking about not stumbling on others? I’ve been asked to do the devotional the Wednesday after Christmas, and I’ve decided to do it on the offering of mercy. I think of how Jesus finished the story of the Good Samaritan with acknowledging that the Samaritan who offered Mercy is the neighbor who loved. Then he tells the lawyer to “Go and do likewise.” Then in James chapter two, he writes about how mercy triumphs over judgement. He states this while talking about how some brothers are poor and some are rich, and the rich are getting preferential (SP?) treatment, and how utterly sinful that is. Perhaps we do the same with the spiritually rich and spiritually poor? Perhaps we see what others don’t have spiritually (what ever that means) and judge; when we should be offering mercy?

  6. Doug, We had a great time with your family, too, so glad you asked us to share the great vacation. When you were young I always wanted to open your head to know what you were thinking, now thanks to this blog, I get to hear what you are thinking. Thanks. Mom

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