Managing Others

Hollie wanted to borrow a shirt from Katie but was afraid that her sister would get mad if she came into her room.

“Send her a text,” I suggested. “That’s how I got her to bring me the towels out of your bathroom.”

“Katie has to listen to you,” Hollie replied. “She doesn’t have to answer to me.”

“Send the text from my phone,” I schemed.

My suggestion worked like a charm and the outcome got me thinking: Why does relating to other people have to be so hard?

Can’t we all just say what we mean, mean what we say and forget about managing others?

This summer, I spent a lot of time managing a difficult relationship. One where constant conflict and irrational behavior left me so emotionally drained that I was ready to give up on the person altogether—Then I read a bible study lesson that talked about how the real enemy is not the person with the maladaptive behavior, but the devil who was behind it.

Satan works through flawed characters to bring out the worst in well-intentioned ones. As soon as I realized that I was not the only one trying to gain control of the situation, I stopped trying to.

Sometimes you have to give up control to gain it. Only then can we experience the peace that the apostle Paul wrote about in Philippians 4:7.

Life shouldn’t have to be like a game a chess where we are always plotting the other person’s next move; but when it is, it helps to remember that we are all on the same team. And difficult people are not the enemy, but unwitting pawns in Satan’s plan.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Losing Sight of Who We Are

I watch American Idol for the moments when destiny peeks its head into reality to give us a glimpse of what it’s like to use our gifts for God’s glory. One of those moments emerged during the April 19th results show when alternative rocker Colton Dixon, after being told that he had the lowest number of votes, took center stage to belt out one last tune. Before he did, the 20-year-old from Tennessee expressed remorse over not accepting a negative critique the night before.

“I need to apologize. I wasn’t myself last night and I get it,” Colton told the judges. “And I appreciate what you told me … I’ll take that when I’m making a record.”

“You’ll make many records,” judge Jennifer Lopez corrected.

“Colton Dixon: a class act,” Ryan Seacrest added as a video showing the contestant’s Idol journey appeared onscreen.

I want to finish that well. To admit my shortcomings and send a message that life doesn’t have to be perfect … and neither do you and I. Sometimes I think we spend so much energy covering up our mistakes: there’s no time left to learn from them.

What Colton learned (and shared with viewers during a post-performance interview) was that he had forgotten where he came from. “I wanted to end tonight the way I started it,” the singer explained. “I felt like I strayed last night,and I hate that I did but I was ready to bring it back and bring my focus back.”

As a life coach, I want everyone to live with purpose and love their lives. We do neither when we say that our heart is in one place and spend all of our time in another. Colton learned this lesson the hard way when he lost part of his fan base after performing a Lady Gaga song onstage despite professing a desire to be a Christian singer. The contradiction reminds me of something that one of my daughters said the other day while we were playing ping-pong.

“Mom, will you still love me if I decide to be an atheist?”

“My love for you is unconditional,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I don’t like it when hypocrite Christians act like God only loves them.”

How easy it is for us, like Colton, to forget who we are and where we come from. The problem with believing one way and behaving another is that we run the risk of alienating the very people God has called us to serve. I don’t want to be the reason someone loses faith in me or my creator. Colton wasn’t going to be either when he dropped to his knees on stage to give his final performance to God.

“I wasn’t singing for [the judges]. I wasn’t singing for my family or anyone in the audience. I wasn’t singing for anyone at home.” Colton explained after he had finished. “That song was between me and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. … I wanted to end it the way I started it and the way I told myself I would do this competition, and I’m glad I got the opportunity.”^1

I have to believe that God was, too, because, although we may lose sight of who we are, He never does. And even the lowest of lows can be turned into a high when we resolve to finish well.

Colton Dixon Singing “Everything”

^1 http://blog.zap2it.com

So That …

On March 17th, I attended the 2012 Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois. The fist speakers of the day were reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. As I listened to the famous couple talk about the circumstances that led up to their series, “19 Kids and Counting,” two words came up so frequently in their conversation that I felt compelled to make them the cornerstone—and title—of mine as I learned how:

  • God told Jim Bob to run for a seat on the US Senate so that …
  • a photographer could take his family’s picture when they showed up at the polls so that
  • the New York Times would buy the photo and write about the large family from Arkansas who supported their father on election day.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great. Jim Bob had to lose his race for US Senate so that he could say “yes” to a documentary and the television series that followed. It’s a lesson that inspired me to create my latest (and shortest) parenting rhyme as I concluded that every “drat” has a “so that.”

It’s hard to understand in our darkest moments that God’s hand will one day be removed to let in the light, but it does happen when we lean on verses like Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 43:19.

I’ve had a lot of “so that’s” in my life. One of the most memorable occurred in 2010 when:

  • my ovaries stopped producing estrogen so that …
  • my digestive system would slow to a crawl so that
  • the doctor would schedule a colonoscopy ten years before my first one would normally be due so that
  • the silent killer known as colon cancer could be discovered before it had time to spread.

Hind sight is not just 20/20. It’s a 10-4 that God is at work in our lives. The disciples realized this first hand when:

  • God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that …
  • all who believe in him will have eternal life so that …
  • we are free to serve God, not out of obligation, but in celebration of what Jesus did to save our lives.

This wasn’t what the apostles had asked for. They were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, not themselves.

I read once that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what we want from Him, but to teach us about what He requires of us. Jim Bob knew this when, on the heels of defeat, He prayed for insight into what God would have him do next with his life. Our challenge is the same as we ask, not for our will to be done, but to understand His and trust that when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, God can use bad for good.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19)

The Reality of Remorse

I recently read something on guilt that I wanted to 1) commit to memory and 2) share with all of you. Since posting the information to my blog helps me to accomplish both objectives, this week’s update is more about learning than discerning. My hope is that the former will lead to the latter as you open your divine textbook and meditate on these words from 2 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 10:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

I never understood the difference between the two kinds of sorrow mentioned in this verse until I read the book Boundaries with Teens by Dr. John Townsend. According to the author, the Godly sorrow that the apostle Paul was referring to is remorse and worldly sorrow is guilt. (see p. 40)

Townsend went on to say that guilt (i.e., the feeling of self-condemnation over doing something that hurts another person) is not a helpful emotion because it is centered on our failure instead of the other person’s pain. Remorse, in contrast, is a solution-oriented approach that frees us to be sad and to undo the damage that we have done.

Knowing that guilt is never a good substitute for letting go makes me wonder: Why do some people hold onto it with fists so full of self-condemnation that they will never get a grip on grace?

Life is too short to live with regret so let’s not waste another minute on unproductive thoughts. Instead, the next time we are tempted to nail ourselves to a cross of condemnation, let’s remember that those who know Jesus have no right to take away from what he did to make sure that every sinner can be redeemed.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1