Last week I wrote about being stuck in a rut, and the importance of keeping your eyes fixed on God to get you through your problems.
But what about relational problems? You know, the ones that involve other people? I’ve caught myself getting extremely frustrated and giving up on my “problems”, because some of them simply seem unsolvable. That person who’s constantly around but always gives a cold shoulder. The pet or child who misbehaves—constantly. The friend or family member who doesn’t make time for you. The coworker or neighbor who is simply obnoxious.
What is a person to do? It feels like running into a brick wall. Oh, and praying “Dear God, please make so-and-so be more such-and-such,” might not get you anywhere fast, because each person has their own free will that God refrains from forcing.
Truth is, we can’t change anyone. Period! So no matter how hard we try, unless THEY CHOOSE to change, WE CANNOT CHANGE THEM. Sure, God could...but again, He respects their free will. So the burden remains on them to change their behavior.
Well, while faith in God is the biggest part of freeing yourself, faith means little without action to back it up. (James 2:14-26). In this sort of case though, I felt stuck. I mean, REALLY stuck. Plopped in a situation with people that you can’t avoid, AND you can’t change them? Sure sounds like a brick wall to me.
Here’s the second truth: relationships are ALWAYS two-way. So while I can’t change the other person, I CAN change myself. And if there is a problem in the relationship, it’s a good time to humbly self-evaluate and see if there is any personal behavior I can change to make the relationship more positive (forget about the other person for a minute, if necessary, and consider the relationship abstractly).
Stop looking at their problems and start asking: How can I love this person more? How can I be more like Jesus to them?
Jesus admonishes us, “How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Luke 6:42).
The fascinating thing I’ve found is that some of MY behaviors, even something as simple as lack of effort in the relationship, have actually provided fodder for this amassing issue between the two (or a group) of us. By making small tweaks in my behavior (and humbling myself—note the ingredient of key importance right there!), a few minutes a day of intentional change is causing unbelievable growth in my relationships on several fronts. In just a week, I feel like I’m starting down a whole new path, and life has taken a significant upswing.