Seeing the Heart in People

Have you ever tried to make one instrument sound like a different one? If you play instruments, you know that certain instruments are used for certain things. The cool part about this question is that you can answer it without any experience playing. Sure, maybe some instruments can sound like another, but they can’t fulfill the same purpose as the one they actually are. As a married man I am guilty of trying to make my wife fit this mold I imagined. Tori and I have been married 7 years now and I can say I spent the first 3 or 4 of those trying to force her into the person I had in my head. The problem with that is she was so loving. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a problem but I mean she was loving in the sense that she wanted to be what I wanted her to be. The deep sadness in of this was that all I had in mind was someone just like me. On her side though, she was conditioned to believe that who she actually was just wasn’t enough.

I started creating this mold in my head when my love for her stopped being driven automatically. When we first met I was captured by her looks, her acceptance, and her freedom to be herself. She ran a stop sign on our first date too and I thought that was pretty neat. But that auto-drive shut off after about a year of marriage. We started arguing some, we were tired because we both worked full time, and we didn’t have as much help as we were used to our on our own. We had barriers in our communication because we had yet to find out that she was a clarinet and I was an oboe. So to make it easier on myself, I would daydream about “the perfect woman” who never disagreed with me, who helped the way I wanted, and who helped the way I would help. As a result, everything she did became everything she didn’t do, everything she was became everything she wasn’t. It wasn’t long before our marriage started falling apart.

Fast forward to two years ago and I realized how little I actually wanted another me and how badly I wanted her. I realized the clarinet won’t sound like the oboe, and I was thankful for that for the first time. What helped me realize this was seeing her pain in the fact that she wanted my acceptance and my love. She didn’t care anything about sounding like me or looking like me, she was only concerned with whether we could work together or not. I started fighting for her and laying myself down looking for ways to leverage her personality. I started seeing someone far more beautiful than the person I originally met.

We all have a different role to play. If we go on trying to force people to play the role we were given, we rob them of their purpose and we lose our own as well. If you have a parent, a friend, a sibling, a coworker, a spouse, a whoever in your life that you are trying to make like you, I encourage you to take a step back and look for their role. Once you know their role you will be able to see how you can work together.

5 Benefits of Loving Others

It’s easy to see the term “love others” and assume it is all for the other person and there is nothing in it for you. That is pretty much true, it’s not all about you, but there are unquestionable benefits that you earn when you properly exercise Love. Here are 5 benefits to loving others others:

1. We carry out one of our greatest challenges in life. In John 15:12, Jesus tells us directly, “This is my commandment. Love each other the same way I have loved you.” Loving others is one of two of greatest purposes in life, the other being to love God. This is given as a command, but viewing this command as a challenge will bring a more motivational stance. Something you have to do is less intriguing and empowering than something you can do. So own this! Make it your thing. Find the thing(s) that you were loved through and share that love with the world. Our greatest challenge in life is finding who we are and what we were made for. Personal development is critical in answering that. These two challenges have the power to shape you into your purpose more than any other reason listed here.

2. We welcome peace. In 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul gives this amazing advice on how to welcome peace into your life. He says, “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, [find what you can] agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. This goes along with what Jesus teaches us in Luke 6:38. He taught us, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” When He says “to make room for more,” He is saying our capacity to understand will increase, which enables us to love deeper than before. So give love and peace, and get more love and peace back.

3. We gain the power of influence. Love is the tool that gives us influence in our lives and in the world. Hebrews 10:24 supports this saying “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” People are spiritually, mentally, and physically moved when they are shown love. If they have been rude, your kindness influences them to evaluate themselves. If they have lied, your trust influences them to be honest. If they are discouraged, your positivity influences them to change their perspective. These things do a great job connecting us to our purpose of loving others but what about the other purpose of loving and showing God to the world? Perhaps the greatest influence we gain through love is written in John 13:35, which says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Loving others shows Jesus to the world.

4. We grow closer to people. This may seem quite obvious but the more we see the benefit in loving others, the more we will actually do it. Proverbs 17:9 tells us “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” When we make the decision to love one another and look beyond faults, we show people that they are accepted because of who they are, not because of what they do or do not do. This creates a bond that cannot be broken and produces the change our world needs. We all need to be closer in understanding with each other.

5. We have life. 1 John 3:14 says, “If we love our brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life.” We should be proving this to ourselves first and the evidence of that will undoubtedly reach others. As number one states, one of our greatest challenges in life is finding out who we are and what we were made for. As a Christian, that challenge is translated into the question “am I really alive in Christ?” This is how you gauge yourself. This isn’t a pass or fail thing. A gauge is a tool of measurement. If you aren’t quite where you want to be yet, look in your heart by yourself and seek where you stand. Do you find life in loving others, in sharing, in helping in some way? If not, connect with God and people through openness and you will be guided. Use this scripture as a gauge for life. We all have the capacity for more life if we seek it.

I would love to hear from you! Which of these are you doing well in? Which of these are areas to focus on? If these do not motivate you, I encourage you to seek reasons that line up in your heart and influence you to show love to others.

Adjusting Expectations

For years into early adulthood I remember feeling this deep frustration toward my dad. I found myself in this sort of empty place because I couldn’t seem to find my place in the world. I wasn’t sure who I was, so I couldn’t be sure of what my hobbies were, who my friends should be, what goals I should have, and ultimately as a result, I wasn’t sure what I was made of or for. Out of fear from reaching the end of myself, I turned to anger and blame. The perfect candidate for me, and maybe many of you as well, to push that pain off of me and onto someone else was my dad. In my internal rage that no one knew about I was screaming “why didn’t you spend more time with me!” “Why didn’t you shape me better!” “Why didn’t you!” “Why didn’t you?” Pretty clear to see the trend I was focusing on. My dad never stood a chance from this view and I was locked up from this bitterness.

Have you ever been there before? Afraid and unsure of your identity or place? Do you have someone important in your life you are holding at a distance because of that pain?

As I got more mature from gaining more experiences and opportunities in life, I realize now how wrong I was about my dad. I hope you have found that about your person, or people, now, but if not I hope this helps you get there. See, my dad rode skateboards with me and played wiffle ball in the front yard with me and took me to rent games I liked to play (yeah, before the era of downloading games to your console and the Blockbuster demise). He was there, until “he wasn’t”. I remember feeling like he wasn’t there when I got older and more troubled. I got into things he was not experienced in. Anxiety, addictions, and deception to cover guilt were not his speciality, but I expected it to be. Because of that expectation, “he wasn’t there.” As I waited on him to absorb my fear and walk me through these uncertain issues, I missed him researching how to help. I missed him spreading himself thin to find the right resources, crying to family members, and his constant concern. I missed him caring about me.

As I reflect this month on caring about others, I know this is something so many of us deal with. Does our family really care about us? Do our friends really want us? Do we really have a place? Without proper direction, these questions lead us to inflated, imbalanced expectations and as a result, our relationships are damaged. When those relationships get damaged, our faith, hope, and love get damaged as well. So what should we expect from others?

Our expectations will vary by relationship. With my dad, I should have expected love from him, not to take the role of God. If I was seeking the question of “did he care for me?” I would have easily answered “yes” and satisfaction would have met me. Hope restored. But that’s not what I was seeking. Instead, I was seeking the question of “is my dad really all-knowing enough to take care of this for me? Can he walk me through this?” No, he could not, and I should not have expected that. My dad didn’t face those issues, so he had nothing to draw from. Why would I have expected him to carry me through something he knew nothing about? Knowledge alone cannot carry us through all things, but love can carry us through until we find the knowledge we need.

People cannot share what they do not have. This does not mean we should expect less of people. It means we should forgive more. It means we should find what is being offered; we should find what can be offered.

Are you expecting something from your parents they are not able to give? If you are like me above, check yourself to see if you are looking for what they can offer. Sometimes good parents get looked over from our own painful projections. If your parents left you, there is no excuse for an absent or an abusive parent, but it helps to forgive them if you can determine if they were able to draw from their own parents for guidance. Maybe their parents were absent or abusive. It doesn’t make it ok, but it enables you to forgive and seek a better life. You set yourself up to break that kind of generational curse if you get from a place of pain and anger, to a place of peace. That path is only found through forgiveness. This also applies to our friends, our spouses, our coaches, our teachers, and any others in a role we look up to.

I encourage you today to find what these people can offer. I hope that what you find is that they have been offering that all along.