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.

Two (or More) Jobs

1I have more than one job. I serve on a church staff, and I work at a nonprofit, community-based organization. (I also write, speak, etc., but let’s set that aside for the sake of this post).

I sometimes think of them as my inside and outside jobs. There are a lot similarities. Both are service, other-oriented. Both involve a lot of communication and relationships.

But because I’ve worked in ministry off and on through the years, I see some differences, too. Anyone who has worked in a church knows there is a danger of developing an “inside” perspective. We can get so caught up with the day-to-day operations and programs of the church that we neglect the impact we’re supposed to have on the community and world. Or we leave that for another staff member or committee to cover. We get used to certain terminology. Most our friends are within the church. Even though it’s not usually intentional, we begin to isolate ourselves from the outside world, which means we can’t have as much influence on others, and we don’t get frequent reality checks of what the world is up to. We can easily slip into an “us” and “them” mentality.

My outside job keeps me in check. And I love it! I get to come in contact with such a variety of people with different perspectives, interests, and backgrounds. I get to hear their stories, concerns, and even their assumptions about “you Christians.” Sometimes the harsh reality of what people think about Christians is difficult to hear, but I can also understand why people think some of the negative stuff about Christians. I can’t prove them wrong with words, but maybe I can begin to chip away at some of those assumptions by living consistently, replacing hypocrisy with authenticity, judgment with compassion, and elitism with humility.

You don’t have to work an inside and outside job to see it. Any of us can and should see the differences  yet begin to live in a way that chips away at the harsh generalizations (that go both ways). We don’t have to get defensive or see each other as opposition. We can acknowledge we have differences but adamantly look for common ground.

We all have two (or more) jobs. But how well are we doing at both?

We All Need Fixed

change_takes_time_fitness_quote_classic_round_sticker-rdafebc83a82649428422e2dff6bee2f7_v9wth_8byvr_324Scroll through social media, and you’ll soon be reminded of many things that are wrong in the world, or at least, what your social media friends believe are wrong. And we all seem to have the fixes that seem so easy. It’s easy to point fingers, easy to claim faults, and easy to say how easy a solution would be.

“Why can’t people use their brains?” They are. But their brains work differently than yours and are filled with different understandings and experiences.

“Why can’t people just love one another?” Sounds good, but what does love look like when someone is threatening someone else, living in a way that’s harmful to self, or involves any number of situations that need correction or confrontation.

“Why can’t people be more understanding?” Try being understanding when you’ve been inundated with messages that tell you how others want to mistreat you, whether those messages are true or not.

Many times, our “if only” solutions that seem so easy involve others’ need to change their minds, approach, or beliefs. Yet we’re not in their shoes. Are we that willing to change? Are we willing to sacrifice our own mind, approach, or beliefs?

If we’re not at least willing to entertain the idea that we might need to shift, be patient, listen, engage people different than us, and be humble, we’re not going to get anywhere. We’re not going to experience change. We’re not going to get our quick and easy fixes.

Because change isn’t simple, quick, or easy. And change isn’t about others. It’s about us.

So the next time you think of what needs to be fixed, consider what needs to be fixed in yourself.

Treat Others Like You Want…

Luke6-31Treat others as you want to be treated. It’s as if we ask ourselves, “If I was in their situation, I would want…” but it is so much more.

First, what we want isn’t what someone else necessarily wants. We might prefer to be left alone in a situation when someone else craves interaction and company. We might want someone to teach us how to do something when someone else prefers to have someone else do it for them even if it costs them.

Second, doing for others as you’d want done for you isn’t just about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; it’s giving needs away. It’s humbly setting ourselves aside. When we lessen ourselves, our needs become less, too. We don’t meet our own needs by filling the gaps we have but by filling someone else’s gaps. We set aside our trust in our own assessments of what everyone needs and our ability to meet those needs, and we simply and generously respond.

What do you need now?

Patience?

Mercy?

Forgiveness?

Compassion?

Assistance?

Understanding?

Company?

Give it away.

You’ll be amazed at how giving away what you most need will fill you, too.

Don’t Create Victims. Equip Survivors.

imagesIt doesn’t have to be a major crisis. It can be the daily wear and tear of life. We want to help. We believe we need to help. We’re certain God directs us to help. But what constitutes true help? It is often different for varying situations and people. What will equip one person demeans or overwhelms another. What boosts and motivates one person causes another to feel entitled to future help.

When we help, we need to equip survivors, not create victims.

It’s easier said than done. We may want to take control and feel as if we have all the answers. We don’t want to be generous in case someone takes advantage of us, or we want to be generous when we’ll set a precedent we can’t maintain. So, how do we know how to respond?

Let God lead, then trust Him with the results.

The results we see won’t be perfect. They will be messy, because life and people, including ourselves, are all messy. We may think we’ve failed someone when he or she needed to struggle through the situation in order to grow. We may think we’ve helped when we’ve started a ripple effect that negatively affects many.

But God can deal with it all. What we offer must be purely motivated, seeking to honor Him each step of the way. We need to give Him our strengths and weaknesses, humility and motivation, doubts and fears. We can trust Him to help us survive and thrive through the process of helping others despite, and perhaps because of, the difficulties.

Your Life Impacts Others

tumblr_nv9itujozM1sbyjvso1_1280I leaned over my dad’s hospital bed and whispered, “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to tell me you love me. You told me with how you lived your life. You loved me well. Thank you.”

Just because we can’t say something doesn’t mean we haven’t said what needs to be said and done what needs to be done.

We need to live well, love well, and choose well. None of those things are one time actions or responses. We can be overwhelmed by needing to say or hear the right words at the right time, but there is so much more to our lives. There are patterns. We build as we make choices. We build as we interact with each other. We build as we live.

Or we can tear down.

We don’t have to put a weight of pressure on ourselves but we need to take our choices serious enough that there is intentionality behind them. What we do has an impact. We’re not just biding time here on earth. We impact others–for good or not.

Consider friends, family, coworkers, neighrbors, and so on. How will you invest in their lives today?

Ideas for Service

ServeOthersWell
©2015 PurePurpose.org

We sometimes get into a service rut. For some, serving in the same way for a long time isn’t a rut at all; when our passion, giftedness, and opportunity collide, we might find a sweet spot to remain in for quite a long time. Others want to explore ways to serve but might not see the opportunities right in front of them. Perhaps one of the following ideas will light a spark that gets you started in a fresh direction.

  • Put together foster care packages. Children in foster care don’t have a lot of things they carry from place to place. Put together age-appropriate bags to ease their transitions. Also, consider the parents, who will be facing many uncertainties and challenges. Put together care packages for encouragement.
  • Plan a block party. Host a block party for people living in a housing project. Provide food and simple outdoor games. Get to know each other. Bridge gaps.
  • Invest in teen moms. Gather diapers, offer to babysit, or host a picnic in the park to get to know each other. Teen moms have a lot on their plates, while often feeling lonely and ostracized. Make connections so they know they can reach out to others.
  • Schedule a weekly coffee date. Invite someone different each week to get to know more people, or focus on one or a small group. Keep the time inked on your calendar. If someone cancels, visit the coffee shop anyway. As you develop a routine, you’ll begin to connect with and invest in a variety of people.
  • Host a dinner. Invite someone to dinner who can’t return the favor. If they insist, challenge them to pass along the hospitality.
  • Collect gift cards. Do you know a family spending a lot of time at the hospital, dealing with daily medical treatments, or traveling out of town for a family funeral? Collect gift cards for restaurants and stores you know will be convenient for them to use.
  • Share your quarters. Send a roll of quarters to a college student. Quarters fit perfectly in plastic M&M tubes if you want a creative way to store and send the quarters. Movie, pizza, and coffee shop gift cards are always welcome, too.
  • Clean up the neighborhood. Pick up trash, shovel snow, or rake leaves. Gather a group of people for maximum clean up and fun, or choose a neighbor and entire block to take care of throughout the year.

What other ideas do you have?