Transparent people are confident in grace. They are confident in what Jesus has done for them that they could not do for themselves. So to be totally honest I have made a lot of bad decisions. Some of those decisions have caused my loved ones and myself a lot of pain. Some decisions have cost me a lot of money; some have resulted in me wasting my time. I have also made some good decisions and then rewarded myself in a counterproductive way. For example, I lost two or three pounds in a week and then the next day rewarded myself with an ice cream sundae and gained a pound back with one snack. Many of us are counterproductive as it relates to how we reward ourselves for making a good decision.
Let me be clear, a good decision doesn’t always get you the results you may have desired. Here is a brief example: Joseph the dreamer chose not to sleep with his boss’s wife; he wasn’t promoted, he was imprisoned. He was falsely accused and unjustly sentenced as a direct result of making the right choice. The good news is that decision positioned him for the process that God would use to promote him from the prison to the palace. Sometimes, a good decision takes longer to materialize but in the long run it is always worth it. A good decision has no regret attached to it; a bad decision almost always involves regret. Regret is something that we will either live with or learn from. The choice is ours.
Bad decisions happen when we isolate ourselves from the counsel (or the advice) of the wise. If you don’t take counsel you will need counseling. Bad decisions happen when we have wrong desires and wrong priorities. Bad decisions happen when we are motivated by fear. Here are a few ways this plays out. For example, we are going through something that is painful and a shortcut is offered. We choose what seems to be the easier and faster way because of the pain. The end result is more pain and a longer unnecessary detour because we made a decision from our place of pain and impatience. It is important to know and remember that there are no shortcuts in the kingdom of God. Bad decisions are often made from a place of insecurity. We do things to try to prove ourselves instead of being ourselves. Or we don’t say or do things for fear of what people will think about us. We do need to be conscious of others, but we do not need to be controlled by the opinions of others. Other bad decisions are motivated by lust. Although lust is sexual, it is not only sexual. Lust says, “I can not wait, I will not wait, I have to do it now, I have to say it now, I have to have it now.” It is important to remember that patient and prudent people don’t make rushed and impetuous decisions. If you are someone who makes decisions based on emotions instead of wisdom and understanding read this blog. It will encourage you toward better decisions where you count the cost before you make the choice.
There is a reason why a high percentage of American’s are lonely. The National Science Foundation reported in its General Social Survey that unprecedented numbers of American’s are lonely. One study based on 1500 face to face interviews found that more than a quarter of the respondents had no one with whom they could talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Why is this so? The answer to that question is no doubt a multi-layered one, one which would by itself occupy many articles and research data. But I want to make a simple observation from my own experience. Relationships are difficult, and generally speaking those relationships which can handle the weight of the deeper discussions of life are the most difficult of all.
Yet it is this very business of relationships to which the follower of Jesus is persuasively called upon to give their most serious attention. Peter speaks to this in 1 Peter 1:22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” Pay attention to the weightiness of Peter’s words “sincere love for each other, deeply from the heart.” When I read those words I find them staggering because it describes a quality of relationship that seems so rare, and if the Social Survey mentioned in the first paragraph is true it is rare for most of the adult population of the U.S. And I suspect it is also rare among Christian people.It is the challenge of trust, vulnerability and the necessary persistence over time which close friendship requires that makes it a work which many of us simply will not carve out sufficient time to make a reality. Os Guinness notes “Life fired at us point blank becomes the survival of the fastest. As a Kenyan saying goes, “Westerners have watches, Africans have time.” This is one of the great temptations of our era the temptation to yield to the notion that there simply isn’t enough time to build these kinds of relationships. And it is not only the appearance that sufficient time isn’t available to take our relationships deeper but there are numerous issues which close quarter relationships inevitably bring us face to face with conflict, and the need to communicate about these inevitable frictions that emerge when we seek close friendship with one another. It’s much easier to simply keep your distance. Let things remain superficial and lighthearted.
Yet scripture makes clear that there is something critical to our spiritual growth which is tied to our relationships, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) In the economy of God, the challenges which occur in our relationships are essential to brining about growth in our character and the quality of our love growth which comes only in this way. It is therefore no exaggeration to say from the vantage point of Scripture that the quality of life in which we must grow is precisely in the area of relationships. According to John’s recollections it was among the last things Jesus said before he was arrested and then executed: John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This is one of the reasons why Christianity doesn’t have much appeal to lonely Americans, hungry for friendship. For when Westerners think about depth, Christianity is too often not the place where searching people turn for that substance. Yet, one of the most common images of the church in the New Testament is family, as though God intended for those who might have suffered with poor family life an opportunity to recapitulate the family experience with brothers and sisters who sincerely and from the depths of their hearts love one another. Could this have been what Jesus had in mind when he made love a cornerstone of what was to characterize his movement? A movement of friendships rooted in the Divine friendship?
By : Scott Pursley
Scott Pursley is a Psychologist and the Lead Pastor of Christ Fellowship in Cranford, NJ. Click here to visit the website of Christ Fellowship.
Progress causes us to turn our backs on those who don’t want to move forward. Progress means change and change is uncomfortable and uncertain. The cost of progress is change. The thought of change causes us all to ask questions. If I change does that mean I sold out? Will I get the desired results of that change if I change? Part of the pain of progress is that you by default turn your back on people who don’t want to move forward. Let me further clarify by telling you what I am not saying. I am not talking about thinking that you are better than people. I am not talking about betraying your family and friends. Let me give you a visual of what I am saying. Five guys are standing and facing north. One of them steps forward and continues to walk forward. What do his friends see? His back. So they no longer see him in the same manner? Did he change? Maybe, but did they stay the same? Yes. Progress means that we are consistently moving forward. The velocity is not as important as the direction and consistency. I am writing this so that you keep moving forward. Will you loose bad habits and people who don’t want to change? Yes. Will you become more and do more and contribute more? Yes. In reality most people want more but don’t use what they already have wisely. Most people don’t have the courage to change. Do you? We can’t really change if we don’t know who we truly are. Before progress can happen we must be honest with ourselves about where we really are in life. Progress begins when we take our first step forward. Which means we will leave some things and some people behind. Are you willing to move forward today? If so what does that mean for you? Let me give you a final thought that will help you gain traction in your life. When you know your priorities then and only then can you gain traction, get momentum and really make meaningful progress. Below are 5 simple steps that lead to progress. A better tomorrow starts today. Remember this, your choices are more powerful than your circumstances.
5 Steps to Progress
- Be honest with yourself. (Be Courageous) Courage starts the process.
- Who are you? (Identity) Identity gives you purpose.
- Where are you? (Location) Your journey begins where you are, not where you want to be.
- What are your priorities? (Values) Values give you priorities.
- Make the choice to let your priorities give you direction so that you can make progress. (Direction makes progress possible)
The wisest and wealthiest man to ever live said, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Wisdom begins when we know that in the end we will have to answer to God for our motives, words, actions, relationships and the resources that were entrusted to us. When we make decisions from that place of understanding generally we make wise decisions. Jesus said, “wisdom is justified by her children.” Wisdom leaves us both evidence and an inheritance. What is interesting about wisdom is that it outlives the wise. Think of King Solomon, his wisdom is still speaking today although he is not. There are several types of wisdom. There is wisdom that is revealed. This is supernatural logic, that is only made possible through the faith of Jesus. This is hidden wisdom. God gives us revelation and we get wisdom. That is the wisdom that we can ask God for and he gives it to us based on our ability to receive and steward it. Then there is received wisdom that comes by asking the right questions and making the right observations.
Below are 5 ways to get wisdom.
- We get wisdom when we ask God for wisdom in faith understanding that he is generous. (James 1:5)
- We get wisdom we learn from our mistakes, our lessons learned become wisdom gained.
- We get wisdom when we respond to correction properly.
- We get wisdom when we stop long enough to reflect on our priorities, progress and circumstances.
- We get wisdom when we ask specific questions to people who care for us and are qualified to answers us.
There are more ways to communicate now than ever before and it is only going to increase. That doesn’t necessarily mean people are communicating more effectively. Through putting my foot in my mouth several hundred thousand times I hope to save you some pain and some time. I hope that my lessons learned can be your problems avoided. Effective communication starts by listening, but also includes perceiving your audience correctly. Knowing your audience is as crucial as knowing what you want to say and why you want to say it and how you should say it. To effectively communicate sometimes we must say what we are not saying, so people can understand what we are saying. Also sometimes stating why you are saying what you are saying brings further clarity. Doing so can help build trust with your audience if they perceive that you are sincere in your motives and true in your content. Another thing to remember in your communication is to be gentle in tone but clear in your content. If there is any room to be misunderstood the communication was not effective or the audience was not attentive. Be inclusive when you talk and talk to people, not at them. People will be attentive as long as you are interesting. Remember to be clear and concise. After you have said what is necessary you must become observant to see if the listeners heard and understood what you have just stated. Sometimes to restate what you are saying in a different way is also very helpful. Here is an example of an initial statement, “the best way to protect your future is to guard your heart today.” Here is a similar reiteration, “the most strategic thing you can do for your future is guard your heart in the present.” Saying the same thing with different words increases the retention rate of your listeners. If they know and feel that you care they will pay attention and learn. They will learn as much as you care. So keeping caring and sharing so others can learn and grow.