We’ve been talking a lot about change and the bottom line is that the only person we can change is ourselves. And I might add that it’s not up to us to change someone else. That’s God’s business. Counselors will tell you they don’t even try to change someone else. They strive to hold a mirror up to their clients so they can see themselves as others might see them. This allows their clients the opportunity to view and analyze themselves and consider changes they may want to make.
The one exception is the role of a parent or teacher. Those moldable years are so important. Unfortunately, I fell victim to a lack of knowledge during my parenting years. I thought that my role was to change my children to be like me. I will be the first to confess that my children did not want to be like me nor should they ever have even felt they should try. I was wrong to assume that my way was the right way–my way is just one way. The only time my way is the right way is if it is God’s way. And God’s way is based on love and mutual support. God’s way is a humble way, not one of superiority just because I was the parent and didn’t see all the beauty in God’s workmanship.
God has been gracious to me and led me to knowledge. It’s never too late to learn. The more I’ve learned, the more beauty I see in those around me. I no longer even want them to be like me. I celebrate them for who they are. I would encourage parents to learn the seven heart stages, to know the pillars of wisdom at play in your life (my book will hopefully come out one day). But for now, I would counsel everyone of any age to learn about the nine personality types (see 9 types.com). You should begin by taking the test yourself and thoroughly understanding yourself. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, know how to bring yourself out of a funk, etc. It is only in truly seeing ourselves that we can change ourselves. There are so many tools on that page that will unveil everything from your fears, your motivation, your speech patterns, your desires, etc. Then, type your family members, your coworkers, your friends. Spend time truly understanding them (it’s called love) and celebrate your differences.
In our family, we’ve got almost all the types. I’m a 3 (the Achiever); my husband is a 7 (The Adventurer); my son Jason is a 5 (The Thinker); my daughter Cherie is a 2 (The Helper); my son Jeff is an 8 (The Leader); my son Josh is a 9 (the Peacemaker), and the young man who lives with us (also named Jason) is a 5 (the Thinker). What a household. My lack of knowledge blinded me to their greatness and their resistance to my efforts to make them like me went painfully askew. With permission from my husband and the young man who lives with us, I’ll give you a couple of examples:
Being a 7, my husband thrives on adventure. We are contemplating downsizing and he has decided it would be awesome for us to move to an island in the Caribbean (with no plumbing) — what fun! The other option he has come up with is moving to the Florida Everglades where he could fish and hunt for alligators every day. I might mention that he is a disabled veteran and going to the grocery store means he must park as close to the door as possible so he can get to a riding cart. Riding in this cart completely exhausts him for the rest of the day. And even if none of this was an issue, he has a knee that needs to be replaced because it is bone on bone and he cannot walk to the mailbox. Need I say more? The old Carol would have observed all this and been so frustrated she would be asking God what was He thinking when He gave her a lunatic for a husband. I’d be angry that he was so insensitive to my needs and let him know that I thought he had lost his mind. The truth is–I was the insensitive one–I didn’t understand his needs. So today I let him visit the adventure he craves and join him on this mental journey–I’ll even watch the videos of his dreams with him. I ask questions (hold up that mirror). He is a wise and practical person somewhere down in there, so he makes a wise decision in the end despite his desire for the adventure. The difference is in how I react to him.
The Jason who lives with us is a 5–the thinker. He overthinks everything. He makes plans for plans. If I’m to make dinner, that couldn’t possibly take a total of two hours to slow cook and that needs to be served by 6:00, he is nervous by noon if I haven’t started prepping for it and will start texting me about it–come sit down with me to counsel me that I need to get started. To say that he is not spontaneous is the understatement of a lifetime. He has his day planned out before he ever gets up. Any unplanned change to his routine–like needing to run to the store or the dry cleaners–throws him into a tailspin. Being a 3, I can change directions without any fanfare. But I’ve learned that I need to talk with him in advance and understand his plans and let him know mine. Then I need to back off and let him choose to change his plans if he wants rather than trying to force my plans on him–which is going to lead to a melt down between us. I need to respect his plans and his ways. His way is perfect to him–frustrating to me. My way is equally frustrating to him. I can’t change him–but I can change me.
In looking back over the last 67 years of my life I realize there have been so many misunderstandings that have come into play in our home. I now know all of them were simply due to our lack of knowledge and understanding of each other. And true love learns. So I’m sorry, kids. I was the one who was wrong. I hope you’ll forgive me and celebrate that even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m so glad God gave me each of you–you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are all different and all wonderful.
Love learns. Love accepts. Love encourages others to be the best they can be. Love celebrates the other person.
I’m not like God. The good thing is that He knows it and came to earth to experience the temptations and trials I will face on my journey. He is faithful, patient, kind–and forgiving. Through His Word He gently shows me how to change myself to be more like Him and less like me. Together, all of my family members can take the journey of change to be like Him. His ways are perfect. But I need to let God draw them to truth, to Himself and His ways while I focus on what He wants to do in me. Indeed there’s so much work He’s had to do in me–we’ve had to deal with my lack of humility, my self-centeredness, my self-righteousness and selfishness, my facades, my habits, my lack of appropriate values. . .oh, the list could go on. And I know He’s only just begun. Praise God He is long-suffering and forgiving. Praise God He loves me in spite of my self. And I pray my family will forgive me and love me in spite of myself (if I promise to keep changing me to be more like Him).
All of us deal with the enemy of self. If we can begin to recognize the enemy of self in our hearts, we can start to remove it so there is room for God and His ways which will mean our hearts will be filled with the needs of others and not ourselves. I could never understand how God could ask or even think that it was possible for me to love my neighbor as myself (that second commandment that troubled me–is that even possible). Now I know that the only way I’m going to find peace and joy is if I take the journey to know and love others for who they are. If I know them and love them for who God made them to be, I can love them as God loves me and thus I can fulfill that second commandment.
If you are struggling in any relationship. Start on a journey to knowledge–of yourself, of them, and of God’s way. Then watch Him begin to do a great work in you. Join Him in the effort on your knees. That’s where change in your relationships must begin–on your knees before Him. He’ll gently hold that mirror up for you as you delve into the pages of Scripture. Use the tools that are out there to help you understand yourself and others. Celebrate the people around you and know that they were given to you to help you grow, to smooth out some of your rough edges.
What’s holding you back? Start Learning–Start Loving.