3 Skills That Kickstart Change

As an introvert I tend to be more observant than I am to be observed. I’m a fan of all kinds of music because it is a window into what people as a whole are trying to say. What makes me feel like I have a purpose and a mission in life is to live as if it’s not all for me. In everything we learn, if we have an intention of sharing that lesson with others, we feel connected to the world. This isn’t taking on the role of God, it’s taking on a role with God. So this is where music comes in for me. I need to understand what people are saying so I can see if I have something to offer or if I have something to learn. So many of us take on positions to help others but feel lost in how to do it. We won’t know everything, but we can always get better if we are intentional about learning. Read on and see how a few songs helped me get more connected with people and how to truly help them.

My personal favorite genre falls in the electronic realm. Artists like Shallou, RKCB, Yoste and those like them are almost always playing if you are around me. A lot of electronic artists, like those guys, have mastered the art of brevity, sharing their vision in very few words. As I was listening to a personal playlist on Spotify, a couple of songs played back to back and I couldn’t help but notice a trend. The first song was “Open Arms” by RKCB (check this song out here) and it opens with these lyrics:

“You say that you want to save me,

Well how come you never hear me out?

I know that you’re frustrated.

Are you always, love?”

The chorus goes on to say:

“I’m on my own in the cold of the rain.

Will you be my shelter?

Will you be my open arms?”

The next song that came on was “Feel Good” by Gryffin/Illenium featuring Daya (listen here) and this one opens with:

“Yeah I doubt, I doubt myself

And I’m too proud to ask for help.

Don’t want to know that I’m not right

I know that I’ve been lately”

The chorus goes on to say,

“Take my hand in the middle of a crisis

Pull me close, show me baby where the light is.”

I have definitely just pulled two songs out that I personally liked enough to add to this playlist and then listen to them again. That’s not enough to significantly add a statistically supported argument that the whole world needs this “thing” but I think we can all agree on this: there is something here.

The trend in this is that people are saying if you really want to make a difference in their lives and lead them to help, work on getting good at these three skills.

Skill 1-Listen

Both of these songs talk about the need of being heard. As you read in the second song, she already knew she was not in the right, but she needed to be heard before she could move on. When we listen to people, we hear what hurts. The act of just being there and letting them struggle through their expression of emotion is the biggest promoter of healing we as helpers have to offer. Allowing people to speak and to feel without “fixing them” helps them identify what it is they are going through without clouding that understanding with anger. Listening sets people up for acceptance.

Skill 2-Accept

Once people feel like they have been heard comes the real test. They will wonder if you accept them. By speaking up at all they put themselves in a position of vulnerability and you are left with an imbalance of power. Your acceptance of their situation translates into your acceptance of them as a person. Acceptance levels out that balance of power and puts both people back in a productive position. This is why you feel good inside accepting someone and making them feel comfortable in usually uncomfortable situations. It feels good because you handled something important the right way. Acceptance starts in the heart so don’t think you can fake it to be kind and make a true difference. In a time of vulnerability, our senses are elevated and we become experts at spotting authenticity. Even if in the moment you don’t feel authentic, spend some time in prayer afterward and get that off before you follow up with the person and do it quick to maintain their trust. Acceptance primes them to receive the message of forgiveness.

Skill 3-Forgive

Once you have listened and shown them they are accepted in their situation, you have set the stage for the true power of forgiveness. It is the most powerful and complete helping tool we have. This is when you can share with someone that no matter what they have done, no matter what they will do, they are worth love. You have heard them, you restored power in them through acceptance, and they are ready to receive love through forgiveness. We can give this power because we have also received this power through the cross.

Our job as helpers doesn’t mean we personally set every stone for people to walk on. I believe more people would step up, step out, and help if we just knew that people generally want to help themselves. We just need to be there to guide and reset. Think about what you truly need when you need help. Could you offer that back out?

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.

Our Differences Unite Us

Our world is full of differences. There are so many hobbies, interests, religions, ideas, perceptions, passions..you name it. Yet in the midst of all of these differences we are still looking at each other for confirmation that we are going in the right direction. We do this because we need people. We look at our surroundings to measure ourself. It isn’t all bad as it sounds. It’s healthy to evaluate yourself and adjust as needed. Several places in the Bible even direct us to do just that (1 Corinthians 11:31, Galatians 6:4) It only becomes unhealthy when you abandon yourself (your inner values and spiritual guidance) in order to achieve a higher level of acceptance. We all want to fit in but the root of that is just that we want to be accepted.

We have all become experts on finding what is different, but an effective analysis also requires an understanding of what is the same. We will always need connection, but how can we find similarities in a world so different? Our differences and our needs are the keys to that. The many differences we all have are certainly what make us unique, but those differences are also the very thing that make us the same. We are all different and that unites us. Our needs work the same way. Our needs are all different and they change all the time, but the thing that never changes is the fact that we all have needs.

What would happen in our hearts if we started seeing what was the same in everyone instead of what is different? Personally, when I look at what is different in others, I am not always looking at the things that are good in your differences. No, if I’m being honest, my first reaction views your differences from a place of scarcity. This means I am looking at how you are different from me in a sense of “what do you have that I do not?” A happier life comes from understanding that I have what I need and you have what you need. This helps me appreciate your differences rather than want for them.

Another really beautiful thing comes to mind from all of this. If we think about Jesus’ act on the cross, we are reminded that it was done because we are loved. You are loved. I am loved. We are worth love. No matter how different we all are, as you look around searching for unity today or moving forward, remember that we are all different, we all have needs, and we are all worth love.