I was reading a friend’s post this morning and thinking about how poorly we see ourselves, at least until God opens our eyes to what is often so obvious to others. I guess selective sight is just as epidemic as selective hearing.
I thought about my friend who has recently seen herself better and obeyed the nag to come clean on some of where she really is, by choice and not so. There was nothing that she shared that I wasn’t in the same boat as her. Some of the selfishness and stubbornness which my friend and I both exhibit has already been brought to my attention, many times before. In lots of ways. I am thinking about the mechanisms God has used to bring things to light. There were systems and people and the occasional and necessary switchin‘. In the south, a peach or other switch growing variety of tree was often ceremonially planted in the yard. We southerners know more about deterrence than any cold war leaders could have ever dreamed to have understood.
One of my mentors helped his students to develop systems of thought and evaluation, questions to ask ourselves and phrases to avoid to help us continually lean into growth. I love how he taught us to take slippery, slimy words from our vocabulary, because they inhibited the growth of integrity: our ability to keep our word. We were taught that when communicating to others, we should avoid phrases like “about 10:00 o’clock” or “near lunchtime,” or “I’ll get most of it.” We were encouraged to be specific in our promises. Such made us more accountable to what we said we would do. Slipperiness, hedging, misrepresenting and lying are all trust destroyers and therefore, relationship destroyers. Under his leadership, we students worked hard to drive those types of assurances from our lips and from our thinking. Our mentor well explained: a person’s time is their most valuable commodity, to waste or abuse it is unthinkable if trust is the goal of your relationship.
Another system my mother has well-drilled into me, and I am drilling into my children, is valuing another’s efforts toward or with you. It is the simple act of expressing thanks, always. I have long been encouraged to make sure people know that I notice and appreciate their presence and actions. This mantra of Mama, “Did you say thank you?” rings in my head after nearly every exchange. And yes, she does still ask me if I did so.
Another good sieve to pass our lives through is people: people who love us enough to tell us the truth when we need it. Just like I would rarely be wise to go on stage without a quick check over by a colleague, I should not dare to go through life unobserved and unstudied and unassisted. I use to be a personal assistant, I’ve actually had one – I had no salary when I worked with our restaurants, but I did have an assistant. It was the best thing ever. She kept me informed and where I was supposed to be and looking how I should and she thought ahead for me so I could better be where I was. It was a great gift and luxury. And if I ever sell a book, forget a new car or clothes, I’m getting an assistant again.
My assistants were never suck ups. I needed them to be honest with me, about what I was communicating to our staff, with the realities of what those who worked with us seemed to believe or even resent. I needed truth, as best she saw it. I needed a mirror that truly represented what others saw of me. I paid those assistants, who were real friends to me in what they did, well. I likewise receive with utter delight faithful friends who are willing to wound me with truth, out of love. The truth is very expensive, a friend that will speak it, as best they understand it, is a priceless thing. A friend will hold your gaze when you try to squirm. A friend will ask a tough question. That friend can be an invaluable sieve to pass our life through.
And then there is that occasional, but highly effective means of God to highlight and then remove the lesser things in our lives. When our kids were little, spankings were always framed as events to help one remember the right way to do something. God has brought some events or hard knocks my way at times to get my attention and arrest my action, then and there. It was not fun, but again, the message was clear and quickly rendered, “This is not acceptable action or conversation or attitude. This right here, will not continue.” It worked with our kids and it works with me. Sometimes, it takes a swat to get my attention. It is love, it is for my good. It does help me remember in the next opportunity to not do the same, to reconsider what hurt might come around the corner in the wake of the things that I am considering doing, being, believing.
My friend who got me thinking on all of this has very good strainers and sieves in her life. I have adopted several of hers in hopes of gaining the same integrity and insight into myself and the same health and trust in my relationships. People who are highly trusted and in vibrant growing relationships have these kinds of systems and people and an appreciation for a good swift kick, well-timed, when it comes their way.
What kind of systems and regular relational conversations do you have to keep growing and gaining your person? Growing up, did you have a peach tree or something akin?