Living Others’ Lives for Us

imagesNot everyone takes the same path we take. I know, it seems like such an obvious observation, but as I listened to people talking one day, I noticed the hint of judgment in the discussion.

It mainly centered on work and education. It was a casual conversation, but it included statements, such as,

  • If he/she would only get more education
  • If he/she would only use his/her education
  • If he/she was willing to work different hours
  • If he/she was willing to put in some extra time
  • If he/she was willing to…

You get the idea.

Every “if only” was following by the declaration that a particular choice would yield more money, status, or success. The underlying tone was, “Why wouldn’t someone choose this route if it will lead to more money, status, success?”

Because…not everyone defines success, status, or “enough” money the same.

We have to be careful. There are plenty of people who are living different lifestyles than us and doing just fine. They might not have all that we have, but that’s not a bad thing. They might not even want what we have, and that’s not a bad thing either. After all, do we always look at someone who has more and long for it? And if that person were to say, “all you have to do to be like me is…,” would we jump into action, or would we skeptically refuse to believe it’s as easy as someone makes it sound?

We might wonder why people don’t try harder and do more, but are we comparing them to ourselves and our ideals? Perhaps we could acknowledge they can provide and succeed in different ways, and we can encourage them where they are and toward where they want to go. Maybe they’re content in the work/money sphere, and their focus on change and growth are in other areas of their lives. Maybe we compare because it makes us feel better, as if our ideals are right. If we begin to admit someone leading a life different from ours, one we see as “less” than ours, can be satisfying, we may feel less about our standards and our lives.

Maybe we can respect and encourage others without making it about ourselves.

Use Your Filter

We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)