How well do you understand people? Why do people do the things they do? To understand people we must first realize that everyone is at a different place in life. Everyone has unique experiences, personality and abilities. God created each of us uniquely. That is why sometimes it is difficult to understand others, especially if they think, act and believe differently than we do.
To understand someone you first must be willing to listen to them and get to know them. It takes time to get to know someone, we can sometimes jump to conclusions about people based on a brief encounter with them. That is a dangerous thing to do. We can write someone off or judge someone before we begin to understand them.
I heard this story about a man and his three children. They were riding on the subway and the kids were being unruly. They were out of their seats, loud and pretty annoying. The father sat in his seat, just starring out the window. The people around the man and kids looked at each other with that look of annoyance. Finally one man decided to approach the father. He said “excuse me sir, but could you please manage your kids, they are out of control”. The man turned to him and said “I am so sorry, they just lost their mother. We are on our way home from the hospital. I guess they don’t know how to handle this and I don’t either.”
Immediately every one’s attitude changed. They now understood what was happening and it changed how they viewed the man, and the children. How often do we do that? We get irritated with someone and don’t know what they are going through. We get angry at the guy that cuts us off, but don’t know what is going on in his life. We get irritated at the co-worker that is late to work, but don’t know what she is going through at home. We don’t know the life the other person has lived, the hardships they have experienced, the grief they have been through, the pain they are in right now.
Remember that we all have different backgrounds, families, experiences and personalities. All of those things affect how we act, what we say and how we live. We all have lies we believe that influence the things we do. Once we understand that in others we can be more effective in helping them.
When we seek to understand people, it is much easier to be patient, forgiving and kind. Once you understand the person better then you can begin to speak truth to them in a loving way.
Today I am celebrating 20 years of marriage. As I reflect on all those years I must say it has been mostly good. Of course we have had some hard times, like every marriage. We have learned from those difficult times and continue to work at it. For a marriage to last it takes each person learning, changing and growing. Practicing forgiveness and working through conflict. It takes spending time together and communicating well.
My wife has been a huge part of my life and my growth. She has great discernment and can see things that I do not see. She has common sense, which helps me avoid mistakes, if I listen. She is very organized and pays attention to details, which has helped me improve in that area as well. She is thrifty and content, which has helped us financially. She has a love for cats, which has rubbed off on me as well.
She is an excellent cook and has learned a lot about eating and living healthy. That has helped me to lose weight and eat much more healthy. She also is a hard worker and I am amazed at how much she can get done. Sometimes I just stand back and watch her go. She also loves to volunteer and help out behind the scenes – I love that about her.
She is my best friend, and I am looking forward to many more years together.
Over the past month I have been challenged in multiple ways to examine what I really care about. It started when I heard this quote: “If you don’t know you can’t care”. How true is that? You are not going to care about something you don’t know about. You are not going to care about someone you don’t know.
So I started asking myself, what do you really care about? What do I think about all the time? What do you talk about? Where do I spend most of my free time? What do I make time for? Where do I spend my money?
It is very easy to live in our own little world and not care about anything outside of that. If we ignore the things around us like poverty, divorce, abuse, addictions, hunger and homelessness it does not just go away.
This weekend I went to our Free Methodist Annual conference. One of the reports was on how the Free Methodist church can reach out and make a difference with the poor, hurting and disenfranchised people around us. We heard many stories about efforts to make a difference. Food pantries, homeless shelters, food delivery, church in a local park in a poor neighborhood. It was exciting to hear that, yet I thought we can do more, I can do more. God has been working on my heart, breaking my heart for people in poverty, people struggling with addictions, people experiencing divorce and separation, families being torn apart. Those invisible people that are feeling abandoned and alone, hurting and hopeless.
I want my church, NewPointe, to be known as the church that cares, that takes the time to listen, that takes the time to invest in one person and one family at a time. Together we can impact our community in a profound and real way. It will take a new way of thinking and a new way of leading. I am praying and asking God to direct me in how we can make a bigger, longer lasting impact in peoples lives. Helping people become healthy, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. What do you care about? Who do you care about? What breaks your heart?
I have been talking with many couples over the past several weeks. Many of the stories I hear are similar. Their tanks are empty and their feelings have changed. They are hurting, frustrated and tired. When your “love” tank is empty, the small things bother you and hurt you even more. If you are in a relationship, what are you doing to fill the other person’s tank? Have you been siphoning off or filling up their tank?
Maybe your tank is empty and you have no interest in filling the other person’s tank. On your own that will be hard, but ask God to help you take the first step in pouring something into their tank. Odds are they are running on empty as well. If you take the initiative the other person is much more likely to start filling your tank.
Now you need to know what fills their tank. Water will not run a car, it takes gasoline. You need to find out what their gasoline is and then pump it every day. Don’t wait on the other person start today – even a drop is better than nothing.
What are you going to do this week to change and grow? Where do you need to change and grow? In what area of your life are you struggling? How are you dealing with the hard things in your life? Who do you need to spend more time with? Less time with? What do you need to say no too? When will you start making some changes? Do you even need to make any changes?
This week you will continue on the journey, the adventure called your life. It can be filled with the same old stuff, or it could be filled with something unexpected. We don’t know what the upcoming week will hold. Or the next year for that matter. We cannot control what happens around us, and sometimes even what happens too us. However we can control how we respond, how we prepare, what we say and what we do.
It amazes me how many people wait until tragedy strikes or hardship hits before they begin to make changes. Unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change we tend to not change. We wait until we have a health problem before we change the way we care for our bodies. We wait until a relationship is damaged before we make relational changes and start working on it. We wait until a financial crisis hits before we change our spending. We stuff our emotions until we explode. We avoid conflict until it gets so big it blows up in our face.
Start making the changes you need to make before the pain intensifies. It is never too late to make changes in your life. Ask God to help you discover the areas you need to work on. Go get help, seek counsel, read a book, listen to a CD, go to a seminar, spend more time with God, read your Bible, go on a fast, go on a spiritual retreat, work on a life plan, set some goals, change your calendar, add some things to your calendar, delete some things from your calendar, say no, say I don’t know, admit you need help. Do something this week, don’t wait. Start small and keep building on it. A year from now you can look back and see the progress you have made. You can do it.