Above All Else, Guard Your Heart, for Everything You Do Flows From It.
This Deals with My Attitude
Have you ever interacted with a know-it-all? Know-it-alls see themselves as a resident expert on almost every topic and are very bold with their opinions. As a matter of fact, they don’t see the thoughts they express as opinions at all. They feel all that they share are absolute facts and aren’t shy about shooting down contradictory ideas.
Does someone’s face pop into your mind as you read that description? Me too! Actually, a couple of people fall into that description for me. Now, mentally shift your criticism of them to a place of grace for a bit. And let your own picture be the one you see matched with this description. I know, I know, this doesn’t perfectly describe you. But what piece of it does? Usually at least one relationship we have brings out little bits of the know-it-all in us. Seek to see it, even if it’s just a hint of it, and determine to try something the next time it starts happening:
Guard your heart from the many slippery slopes.
One of the most damaging elements in relationships is pride. That need to be the expert, the right one, the most knowledgeable — it pulls us down into a pit of pride we probably would never label as such. And because pride is so hard to see, here’s a hint of how to know it’s there: The less we feel we need to address pride in our lives, the more it has already blinded us.
Gracious, that’s a painful sentence for me to type. Because it forces me to examine something I quite simply don’t want to see or acknowledge. But here are some verses that help me pray through this as I ask God to pry open my spiritual eyes and ears:
• His pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God. — 2 Chronicles 26:16
• In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. — Psalm 10:4
• For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. — Psalm 59:12
• When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. — Proverbs 11:2
• Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. — Proverbs 13:10
• Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. — Proverbs 16:18
We must guard our hearts against pride. Otherwise pride will taint everything else we do, say, and think.
There are certainly other things we need to guard our hearts from, but pride is so blinding we’ll never see them or be receptive to hearing them if we don’t address this first. Then we can see and hear the other things with humility.
Keep Your Mouth Free of Perversity; Keep Corrupt Talk Far from Your Lips.
This Deals with My Propensity Toward or Away from Affirmation
Do our words build up or tear down?
Imagine there is a bridge over a vast canyon. You are on one side, and a person you care about is on the other side. Every time you dishonor that person with your words, you remove a plank from the bridge. At first this can seem like no big deal. You can navigate around the gaps by stepping over them. But eventually the gaps become gaping holes, causing the journey to the other person to be a treacherous one. Crossing over starts to feel more and more impossible.
That’s a daunting picture, right?
If I want to keep my connecting bridge strong, there are things I need to assess about the way I’m using my words.
• Questioning actions without having all the facts
• Assuming the worst about intentions instead of believing the best
• Having a critical tone when discussing possibilities for someone’s future
• Needing to say “I told you so” when someone takes a wrong turn
• Competing with another person’s accomplishments instead of celebrating them
• Processing my thoughts about someone with others before talking directly to that person
• Seeing someone’s issues with bold spotlight clarity while thinking mine are but mere shadows in comparison
Each of these things removes the planks one by one from our connecting bridge. The holes can be repaired, but it will take time and great intentionality to build back with affirmation what negativity has eroded. Here are some affirming questions to start with:
• “Would you help me understand how best to encourage you?”
• “When we don’t agree, what’s the best way to approach a compromise?”
• “What is something you wish I wouldn’t do when we discuss issues?”
• “Is there an area of your life I can better support?”
• “What is something in your life you wish we could celebrate together?”
• “How can we make our relationship more of a priority in this season?”
• “Is there a mutual confidant, friend, or counselor who is mature enough to help us think through and strategize ways to improve our relationship?”
This is just the beginning of a positive list. Keep adding to it as you continue to think through this. These affirming planks will go a long way in putting your words to good use!
Let Your Eyes Look Straight Ahead; Fix Your Gaze Directly Before You.
This Challenges My Altitude
A friend of mine recently told me she put herself through a 360 evaluation. I thought that sounded interesting, so I asked her to explain. Basically, to increase her ability to see things from another person’s vantage point, she had to circle the issue, looking for her own blind spots.
As a follower of Jesus, we are followers of wisdom. Fixing our gaze directly before us and looking straight ahead helps us to focus on wisdom and not get deceived by our own blindness and assumptions. I get distracted from wisdom and attracted to foolishness when I don’t seek to understand what other people really want.
Wisdom seeks to see someone else’s vantage point even if I don’t agree with that person’s perspective.
But only from their perspectives can you strategize about how to meet the other people on common ground. Foolishness refuses to acknowledge there’s any other way to look at something but mine. Eventually, others will build barriers to shut this kind of exhausting foolishness out of their lives.
My husband and I have really had to work on this with our relationship. I’m a get-it-done-and-figure-out-the-small-details-laterkind of girl. He’s a write-out-every-step-because-no-detail-is-too-small-to-become-a-big-problem kind of guy.
Recently, we were helping one of our adult kids think through the purchase of her first little starter home. My daughter and I crunched all the numbers to get to what would be a reasonable monthly mortgage payment. And then we estimated all the other related monthly bills and were good to go. We found a great deal on a house that fit within her established budget and felt that we’d attended to all the necessary details.
I thought Art would be thrilled with all our processing when we verbally presented everything to him looking for his support. He wanted everything written out on paper from start to finish. I could have pushed back, confident we’d done what we needed to do, and then just left him out of the rest of the process. But as I forced myself to look at things from his vantage point, I saw the wisdom in taking the time to write everything out in much more detail than our simple version of running the numbers. We didn’t get as detailed as he would have, but we met on the common ground of getting much more on paper than before.
Rising above my own vantage point to circle around and see his was a better altitude from which to see the bigger picture. Had I dug my heels in and refused to meet Art in the common ground, we would have missed some expenses that eventually could have caused our daughter some financial setbacks. In the end we adjusted her remodel budget and were able to set her up for success.
“Give Careful Thought to the Paths for Your Feet and Be Steadfast in All Your Ways. Do Not Turn to the Right or the Left; Keep Your Foot from Evil.”
This Is About My Actions
Okay, last evaluation. Now that we’ve been diligent with our attitude, affirmation, and altitude, we must analyze our actions past and present. Sometimes when I’ve veered from wisdom, I have to go back to reevaluate past actions in order to go forward in restoring present relationships. To do this we must backtrack, back up, and back down.
• Backtrack: Admit we’ve been wrong. If we’re brave enough to start the restoration process by owning one issue where we were wrong, it will start to soften other hard places.
• Back up: Ask for forgiveness. This will give the other person a safe place to stand while considering the next step.
• Back down: Intentionally show that person the action for which we asked for forgiveness is an area where we are making strides of improvement and breaking unhealthy patterns.
I’m very thankful God’s Word helps me see things I need to pay attention to. Nothing will give you emotional laryngitis like living in close proximity to someone who refuses to listen. Having emotions but no voice chokes the life out of relationships.
How tragic for the one silenced. But also, how tragic for the silencer, who throws so much richness of relationship away.
Learning to listen requires strategies to improve our hearing.
I pray this section gives you a relationship revitalization. And the next time you ask the question, “What’s it really like to do life with me?” I pray the answer makes you and those you love smile.
Watch the Uninvited Video
Excerpted with permission from Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, And Lonely by Lysa TerKerust, copyright TerKeurst Foundation.
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“What’s it like to do life with me?” may be a scary question to ask! Maybe in the back of our minds we already know the truth that it’s tough and painful for others to deal with our pride, our prickliness, our harsh words, the way we jump to conclusions, or our refusal to listen… But asking the question and pressing into our own weaknesses and wrongdoing can help our most important relationships heal and grow and I know we all want that! I try to regularly ask my family, “What can I do to take care of you better? How can I love you better? What do you need more of or less of from me.” Sometimes the answers poke at me in ways I don’t like, but they always point to ways the Lord Jesus wants me to be more like Him! How about you? Who do you need to ask today? Come join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full