Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twelve Words That Make a Big Difference

Over the course of my life, God has taught me that I cannot control what others believe about me, or what they believe about my husband, or what they believe about anyone, for that matter! I can only control my response to what they say they believe. There are twelve powerful words that I have learned I can use in almost any situation regarding relationships. I don't know who first came up with this "formula," but I first heard it when my husband used it in one of his sermons. There have been many opportunities for me to witness the power of saying:  I am sorry; I was wrong; Please forgive me; I love you. I've discovered that there are a myriad of ways to adapt these words so that they fit almost any situation. Here are just a few examples:

1.      I’m sorry that I was so self-focused.
I was wrong to think only of my own needs.
Please forgive me for being so insensitive.
I love you and want you to be happy.

2.      I’m sorry that our friendship was damaged.
I was wrong to hold a grudge against you.
Please forgive my selfish behavior.
I care about you and want God’s best for your life.

3.      I’m sorry that I have to enforce this discipline on you.
I was wrong to have let your behavior continue to this point.
Please forgive me for not being tuned into what you were doing before now.
I love you and want to help you learn to live responsibly.

4.      I’m sorry I have not lived up to your expectations.
I was wrong to let you believe that I could.
Please forgive me and accept that I have limitations.
I love you and promise to do all that I can to make you a successful person.

I have found tremendous power in these words, coupled with prayer -- even if the words never reach the person to whom they were directed! Sometimes just writing them out and praying for God’s strength has been enough for me to move forward when I have felt paralyzed by disappointment, resentment, betrayal, anger, etc.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on Perspective

When I was a teenager (a loooong time ago and far, far away), I remember reading about a contest in a fashion magazine and making a decision to enter. The entry involved answering this question: “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what one cosmetic item would you not want to be without?” Thinking about that now, the answer seems so obvious – sunscreen! But back then, protecting my skin from the sun was the last thing on my mind. As is common with teenagers, I was concerned about looking my best – okay, I’ll admit it – I was consumed with fitting in and being accepted by my peers. It’s really embarrassing to consider the answer I actually submitted, but hey, I’ll swallow my pride for the sake of making my point. It’s really sort of funny that I still remember this – my profound answer to the question about what I would want with me on a deserted island went something like this: “I would want my eyelash curler because I have really short, straight eyelashes.” Okay, go ahead and laugh – I am. That answer is so wrong on so many levels! First of all, who’s going to care how they look on a deserted island? The whole concept of a deserted island is that no one else is there, so who is going to see you? Secondly, is having perfectly coiffed eyelashes going to help me survive living alone on an island in the middle of the ocean? It all seems so funny now, and yet, I remember being very serious at the time, and even thinking my profound answer just might win that contest.

I guess what I’m trying to do is make a point about what a difference perspective can make. Children live in a perspective of here and now, for the most part. “I want this and I want it NOW!” There is no attention given to whether what you want is an inconvenience to someone else, or that the consequences of getting what you want might actually have a negative impact on your life. In teen years, our wants become “needs.” By this time we have decided that we really deserve the things we need and that those who refuse to provide them simply “don’t understand.” The only perspective we have in those delicate years is that today is the most important day of my life and that everything that happens is a matter of life and death. We must not stand out from the accepted norm or our life is over.

In light of that perspective, it’s not surprising that I would consider my eyelash curler the most important thing to have with me in case of being lost in the middle of an ocean. I was focused on me as I appeared to the world.

Now that I have lived a lot of years, I’ve learned a few things about myself. One thing I’ve learned is that I still focus way too much on me as I appear to the world. I’m smart enough to understand that a tube of sunscreen on a deserted island makes a lot more sense than an eyelash curler, but I’m still self-focused enough to not leave my house without curling my eyelashes! Why is it that we are consumed with the image we present to the world? Even when we pretend that we don’t care, we really do.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing the best we can with what we’ve been given. In fact, I think it’s a really good idea to do what we can to be clean and presentable to the world. I just wonder if our perspective on what that means has become a little skewed as the media of our culture tries to set the standards for us. Some of us still want to “fit in” way more than we should. It’s only when we begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes that we really see who we are. To take God’s perspective is to understand that each of us is unique and created the way we are because that was the way God wanted us to be! Obviously God didn’t think it was a good idea for me to have long curly eyelashes or He would have given them to me. I’ve considered putting that on my “List of Things to Ask God About When I Get to Heaven,” except that the older I get, the more I realize that most of the things I wonder about really aren’t going to matter when I get to Heaven. My list is getting shorter and shorter.

Anyway, I’m just thinking that perhaps we should do a perspective check every now and then, just to see if the things we are focusing on are the things that really matter. At least for me, it seems prudent, considering that I bought a new eyelash curler today.