I See You!

I saw the movie Avatar with my father a few weeks ago.  I usually don’t like movies that get all the accolades, but this one was even better than the hype!  One of the aspects of the movie that I really liked concerned the Avatar people and how they related to each other.  They would greet each other with the phrase, “I see you.”

At first glance this didn’t seem like a big deal, but during the movie it was explained that the phrase doesn’t just mean that they physically saw each other, but they saw the person.  They saw who they are; their character, their talents, their weaknesses, the whole package. 

The phrase wasn’t said with a condescending tone, but with acceptance and respect.  They may not always agree with each other, but they understood each other and accepted one another.  I thought to myself, “Wow!  Who wouldn’t want someone to say that to them!” 

How amazing would it be to hear the people around us greet us in such a way that it told us that they not only acknowledge our presence, but our personhood.  To be seen in such a way that you felt understood and accepted.  That even though they may not agree with you on some things, that they respect your right to have those opinions and make those decisions.

Because we don’t usually acknowledge the people around us in this manner most people walk around thinking that they have to hide who they are, or at least certain aspects, from others.  Most people at some level think, “If they really knew me they might not like me.”  They’ve proven it by telling us things we have done to hurt them, or maybe they’ve made fun of us or talked about us behind our backs.

What’s truly sad is that most spouses don’t feel that they are truly “seen” by their mates.  They exist around each other more than they live with each other.  Many couples spend much of their energy trying not to upset one another.  Learning to understand each other, let alone accepting each other is way on the back burner if it’s on the radar at all.

What about our children?  Do they believe that we “see” them?  Or do they think we are just trying to control them, judge them, or do we simply ignore them?  Do you think they feel understood and accepted?

Take some time this week to really see your family.  Tell them all the wonderful things about them; their character traits, their talents, their gifts.  You can even let them know that you see some of their fears, but make sure you leave the conversation with them knowing that you accept them!

You might need to write some things down and think about it before approaching them.  It might even seem awkward to say those things to them.  I promise you, the more you say them the less awkward it will seem.  But don’t let that feeling of awkwardness stop you, because if there is one thing everyone desires, it’s to truly be seen!

Are You Intentional?

Part of the ministry of Just Jesus Ministries is assisting churches with youth ministry development. As I work with these churches one underlying theme constantly comes up and that is “being intentional.” When we plan church events too often we think that just keeping them off of the streets is enough. All we are trying to do is to keep them out of trouble. I personally don’t think that is enough.

As Christians we think that ministry opportunities just “happen.” And truth be known sometimes they do, but most often we miss opportunity after opportunity to meet someone’s needs or to minister to them in some small way because we simply are not intentional. We are not out there looking for those opportunities.

As couples we have the mistaken belief when we get married that we will always be in love; that we will always feel those warm fuzzies toward each other. (Side note: those warm fuzzies are not love, they are an occasional symptom of it. But that is another column.) Once, I even heard a deacon of a church I was attending say, “I told my wife I loved her when I married her, and if I change my mind I will tell her.” We think that love will always be there, but it won’t be unless we are intentional and find ways to keep that flame burning!

As parents we think that as long as our children are not in trouble they are good kids; that they will be just fine and become upstanding young citizens. We think that dropping them off at church will teach them about God. We believe that dropping them off at school with complete their education. We think that they will somehow figure out how to treat a girl or what to require in a relationship with a boy through osmosis; it will just somehow seep in through their pores. But none of that will happen with our children unless we are intentional.

We must make time to talk with them and listen to them. We must make special time with each of our children. We must look for opportunities to bring up certain topics such as dating, sex, religion, and the future. We need to be intentional with our spouses and go out on dates, spend time talking once the children are all in bed, and yes- even be intentionally intimate.

Being unintentional is killing us! We think that we can just drift through life and let it all “just happen” around us. I hate to pop your bubble, but it doesn’t work like that. That isn’t living; that is simply existing! And most people won’t put up with that, at least not for long. Don’t believe me? Just look at the divorce rate!

Think of all the opportunities you have missed out on already with your wife, your husband, your kids, even your friends simply because you were not intentional.

So, get out there and make plans to be intentional. Guys, call us your wives and ask them out on a date. Parents, go do something with each of your children, individually and as a family. Let’s quit existing along side each other and start living; let’s be intentional!

Belief Systems

Belief's (walls) photoI was talking with a client the other day in the office.  She was frustrated about her job, her marriage and her life.  “I hate everything right now!” she said.  As I listened to her pain I saw a recurring expression that occurred with everything she talked about; she was experiencing a lot of fear.

Her fear kept her stuck in her current situations and in her current behavioral patterns.  “Why should I do anything different,” she exclaimed, “it will just be the same thing at the next job!”   She went on to tell me how her last job had started out great, and when she started to excel and they were going to have to pay her more money, they also changed the deal mid stream.

Now we had fear that was rationalized by personal experience.

I began to explain to her about the belief system cycle.  Early on in life we experience events that form beliefs.  These beliefs are expressed over and over again in the deep recesses of our mind as thoughts.  When we have these thoughts we have feelings about them, which effect our actions, which in turn become new events that tend to confirm the belief we had in the first place.

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy where we mentally create the environment to prove what we already believed to be true.

In my client’s case it was her first job.  She had been lied to and taken advantage of.  That coupled with a boyfriend that cheated on her added to a belief: “people could not be trusted.”

Because she needed work and wanted love she did risk trusting again, but this time with a wall up around her.  Not a big one, but one she thought would protect her.  Her experience created a belief that instilled a thought that ran in the background of her mind whenever anything bad happened, “You just can’t trust anyone!”

Oddly enough, the wall that she built to protect herself from being taken advantage of was actually keeping her in a situation where she was being taken advantage of on a daily basis!  She wasn’t willing to leave a job where the company had reneged on their agreement, because she was afraid of working for a company that would take advantage of her and eventually go back on their agreement with her.

Sounds crazy, but we all do this kind of behavior.  It’s not crazy to you because you grew up with the lies that you believe and they seem normal and sensible to you.  You developed these beliefs in order to protect yourself, but now they actually keep you in dysfunctional behavior and only guarantee pain.

“But I know how to manage this level of pain!” you say. “What if the pain next time is worse?”

“What if it’s better?”  I would reply.

It’s not hopeless!  Hope is found when we go beyond learning about the truth and actually start believing it.  When we take those truths and base our beliefs on them, fighting against the urge to believe the old lies, then new thoughts naturally take over influencing new behaviors.

It’s not a one time event, but a battle.  It is a process to move from believing the old lies to walking in truth on a daily basis.  Even after we are released from the bondage of lies we still have to continue to walk in the truth, for it wasn’t our efforts that freed us, but believing the truth instead of the lie!

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word [truth], and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”   Not for the sake of performance, but simply because it is true!

Learning From Your Weaknesses

Weakness. Just the word can make you grimace. Go into any group of people: young, old, male, female, American, or foreign and ask, “Who wants to be known as weak?” Not one person will raise their hand. Yet, every one of those people has weaknesses.

It’s inevitable. You can’t only have strengths. It’s the law of natural ability: For every strength there is an opposing weakness.

Talkers have a hard time listening, introverts have a hard time initiating relationships, people with high energy have a hard time sitting still. I can’t think of a single strength that doesn’t create an opposing weakness.

Why then do we have this aversion to weakness? Why is it when someone points out a weakness of ours that we automatically feel inferior, like we should possess that trait as a strength? Why can’t we look at them and say, “You are correct, that isn’t one of my strengths” and feel good about it?

I think social norms come into play here. The groups we spend time in come up with a mold or stereotype they believe are worthy of praise. Typically the awards go to high achievers, people who are gregarious and outspoken, or people who are in the limelight- whatever that group determines the limelight to be.

Mainly, I think it is due to a lack of understanding of the law of natural ability. People actually expect themselves to measure up to the stereotypes set before them. A perfect example is our current education system. I am a smart guy. I accomplish almost everything I set my mind to. But look at my grades from high school and college and you would put me in the average to below average range.

In college I performed average in my religion major. There was just so much history involved in that major, and I am terrible about remembering details- which is what was required to pass those tests. I felt like an idiot. I knew I was smart, but I didn’t feel like I was and my grades didn’t support that I was.

My junior year I took a sociology class and loved it. I made it my minor and even took sociology classes as electives because I enjoyed them so much. Suddenly I found myself on the edge of a double major and even wound up in the honor society. No one was more surprised than me!

It turns out that I have a knack for people, process and systems. Those strengths are not conducive for making good grades in high school or in classes that require a lot of detail. But move me into a subject like sociology or counseling that utilizes my strengths and I blow it out of the water.

Here is my point: If your strengths have opposing weaknesses, then your weaknesses also have opposing strengths.

If you run into something you are not good at don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal! In fact, if you look a little deeper you will probably discover one of your strengths keeping you from succeeding in that area.