Category Archives: Authentic Responsibility

The Envious Eye

envious eye by nirots

image courtesy of nirots / freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been really discouraged and frustrated lately about being single. The older I get, the more it becomes a real threat that I won’t have a husband or family. I know God calls some people to singleness, but I have never felt that call on my life. In addition, the Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” And believe me folks, especially in the last few months: I’ve been on FIRE, out of control, and more than a little ticked at God about the whole thing.

For Christmas, my bosses gave me some little hand lotions and a spa gift card. Now, I don’t use conventional hand lotions because of all the chemicals, but these were really nice sets of lotions and I wanted them to go to a good home. So I stopped by a few offices on my way through the building last Friday, eager to give out these little lotions to some friends and coworkers. At the last office, I stopped and gave the last few lotions to the two secretaries that I always chat with when I visit that office. They were excited to have such a nice, little gift and very thankful that I thought of them.

As the two secretaries were sampling the lotions, another girl—we will call her Gina—came out from her private office and asked what everyone was doing. One of the secretaries answered, “Oh, Michelle brought us some lotions.” Immediately, Gina began to make a big deal about how I didn’t bring her anything, and I should have shared with her and not just these two girls, ad nauseam. When I pointed out to her that I was the giver, and she did not get to dictate who I gave anything to, she got even more incensed. I also noted to her that I had given her really nice gifts in the past, and she replied that that was “a couple of years ago.” I also pointed out to her that she had acted in this way before when I gave something to someone else—she had come in and started taking things that I had purposed for someone else. She then stated that the person I had given those things to had WANTED to share them with everyone. At this point, the two secretaries were so undone at how Gina was acting that they offered up their lotions to her. Then she made a big deal of not accepting them because that wasn’t what I wanted. The whole situation was totally embarrassing for Gina, even if she didn’t realize it or think so.

As for me personally, I was livid, really. You see, I had given to Gina in the past, and I felt it was pretty crappy and ungrateful for her to interrupt a thoughtful moment with her incredibly selfish banter. I was mad mostly because Gina is a Christ follower, and that kind of nonsense makes believers look incredibly petty—it was trial size hand lotions, for crying out loud. As I was recalling the situation and my anger to my mother, I said, “My gosh, does Gina act this way when God gives someone else something that He doesn’t give her? Because that would explain a lot!”

A few hours later, as I was stewing and trying to pray about this matter, God nudged me about that particular comment. He said very clearly to me, “But Michelle, isn’t that how YOU think? Don’t you believe that I should give you a husband and kids? Don’t you look at other people and go, they have a husband and kids, why don’t I?”

And that hurt. Because (as always) He was absolutely right.

I tend to believe that I am not all that selfish, but it’s really not true. My selfishness comes out in different ways—in fact, I act towards God like Gina did to me. I may not do it over hand lotion, but recently, I’ve definitely been doing it over getting a new job, having my own place, moving to a warmer state, and having that elusive family/husband. And though the Lord has provided so much for me—both now and in the past, I tend to interrupt any kind of thanksgiving with my own selfish banter about what I want and need right now that He has not given me. Or what someone else has that I want. And when God gave me a brief glimpse into that, I was embarrassed—this time, for myself.

Matthew 20 begins with a parable about a vineyard owner who is searching for laborers to work his fields. He hires three sets of laborers at three different times during the day, and each group he agrees to pay a denarius. The other groups are not aware of what each is getting paid. So imagine the anger of the first and second group when the third group gets paid exactly what the first two are getting paid. The owner doesn’t want to hear their grumbling. He is basically like, “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? So then take your money and go.” But then he says something that catches my eye and rifles through my heart like a shot: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

This is the point that I tried to relay to Gina, and it’s the point that God in turn relayed to me. Gina had an envious eye, but so do I—and maybe you do, too. Wanting something that God hasn’t decided to give me yet isn’t the sin. The sin is seeing God’s generosity in other people’s lives and being envious that those gifts haven’t been given to me. It’s okay for me to want to be married and have kids and to have my own place, etc.—as long as I don’t want those things more than I want Jesus, as long as wanting those things doesn’t become the focal point of my life, as long as those wants aren’t what compel me. Seeing others get what I think I deserve—that is the real sin. What I truly deserve is death. Anything I get beyond that is gravy!

Mostly, I need to make sure I am taking pains to pluck out the envious eye every time it surfaces and regrows in my life. Because when you have an envious eye, you’re not going to see anything the way it really is—you’re only going to see what you didn’t get or what you don’t have. And by doing so, you’ll miss out on the real blessings God is showering you with every single day.

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My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Conflict

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just gotten back to the east coast from coordinating my uncle’s post-rehab care in Phoenix. I was tired and emotionally drained as I read an e-mail from my supervisor asking me to stay late the following day to interview candidates for our admin job. I responded to my supervisor with a very direct and factual e-mail about what my office hours were and what my life was like after hours (owning a business). He was angry for hours before finally calling me in to his office. At that point, he began to tell me that my e-mail had rubbed him the wrong way, that they had been very “accommodating” of my schedule this past year, and that he didn’t appreciate the tone of my e-mail. I responded only to what was appropriate: I apologized for any “tone” that might have come across and reiterated my inability to stay late. What could have been a larger argument was toned down because I chose to practice emotionally healthy habits in conflict.

Conflict is one of the hardest things for people to handle. In fact, I’m still looking for ways to improve my conflict resolution skills. But here are three ways I am always trying to improve my handling of one-on-one conflict:

  • Listen actively. This means not just hearing what the other person says, but listening with your heart. I didn’t speak much in the meeting with my supervisor because I wanted to listen to what he was saying, and because I didn’t want to say something I would regret. When I listened with my heart, I realized that I had hurt him with my directness. How did I know? Because when I apologized and assured him that I was not upset with him, he was fine! James 1:19 says that everyone should “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” You can’t talk and listen at the same time, so make listening your priority. And once you’ve listened, when you do speak, don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify what the other person means. Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Fight fair. Stay focused on the topic at hand. “You always do this” is not a fair statement about what is happening now. Make sure that you only address the present, not the past. When my boss noted that they had been so “accommodating” of my schedule over the year, I wanted to respond with some snarky comment. But I quickly realized that was not the issue, so I let it go. Part of fighting fair is also remaining as calm as possible. Do you like dealing with angry people? Few people do. No one likes to be attacked, physically or verbally. So treat people the way you want to be treated, especially in conflict. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Fight fair by staying focused on the present and remaining calm.
  • Consider your part. It takes two to tango, and two to engage in conflict. Is this the third or fourth person that has mentioned that you’ve hurt them in one specific way? Then perhaps what they are saying is truth. How are you feeling? This also affects how we treat others, so be aware of yourself! With my supervisor, I realized that being emotionally drained, I should not have responded via e-mail but instead I should’ve just spoken with him. I also realized that I was too direct and lacked positive emotion in my response. I even thought about ways I could have worded my e-mail that wouldn’t have come across so strong. I noted the latter to my boss as we were talking. Matthew 7:5 reminds us that we all have faults and issues; so before we start in on someone else’s, we need to check our own.

Conflict is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy! In fact, conflict is one of the healthiest things we can experience—if we practice emotionally healthy habits. So fight fair, listen actively, and consider your part the next time you have a conflict—and watch yourself grow exponentially!

That Lyin’ Pride: Me Me Me

peacocks by tina phillips

image courtesy of Tina Phillips / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a hard summer. I’ve experienced some hurt at the hands of others, and recently, one of those friends reached out to me to get together before she moves away. I had reached out to her to meet and she had said she would like that and had to “check her schedule” and get back to me. However, she never got back to me. Weeks went by, and she sent me some other communications, but nothing about getting together. I was really hurt but had felt as if I had been the one who had given relentlessly in the relationship, so I refused to remind her about my invitation to get together. Then a few days ago, she let me know she wanted to get together before she moved. I looked at my phone when I got the message, and promptly typed, “I would like that. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” I then promptly waited 24 hours before attempting to set up a time to meet with her. As I reflect on my actions, I realize that instead of being loving, I was listening to the voice of pride.

One of the loudest thing pride says to us is that “everything is all about me.” It is easy to see pride’s “me me me” attitude when we are simply making choices that revolve around us.  However, when we are hurting, that is when pride makes its biggest moves. It begins to tell us that our feelings are the most important. We have all been there—in that place where we want others to feel what we are feeling, to experience the hurt that they have doled out to us. That’s what I wanted to happen in my situation with my friend. I wanted to prove a point; I wanted her to realize that I was doing to her what she did to me. I wanted her to understand my pain. Instead of focusing on restoration, I was focused on justice. And while justice is one of God’s traits, He tells us that vengeance belongs to Him (Romans 12:9). Pride, though, tells me that I should be the one who avenges my feelings and tries to make the other person pay.

So how can I fight the prideful attitude of me me me? James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” It is difficult for me to give grace when I am hurting because I’m so focused on my own feelings. But I think one of the things that I tend to forget is that grace is the counter action to pride. I know the opposite of pride is humility, but how can I practice humility? This Bible verses says that God gives us grace when we are humble…so I think we have to practice humility by giving more grace as God gives to us. The right thing, the graceful thing for me to do with my friend would have been to answer her other texts and love her as I’ve always loved her. Even though my pride says that I’ve given far more than I’ve received in this relationship, grace tells me to depend on the Lord for strength to give even more. When pride says to wait for her to respond, grace tells me to seek her out continually, just as the Lord continues to seek me out—because as I continue to do these things, I becomes less like my flesh and more like Christ.

I’m not saying this is easy—as you can see, I still struggle with the right way to handle relationships and the best ways to fight pride in my life. But one thing I do know is that I want to receive more grace from God—and in order to receive grace, I must give grace. And if it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), I want to give more grace and less pride.

How can you give more grace and, in turn, fight pride in your life?

That Lyin’ Pride: Did I Do That?

peacocks by tina phillips

image courtesy of Tina Phillips / freedigitalphotos.net

I saw a friend last night whose son was recently arrested in a neighboring state (where he lived) for driving while under the influence of heroin. The son went to rehab—for the second time this year—and charges are pending for him in that state. Last night, the son was with my friend as we mutually did a service project together. I struck up a conversation with the son, asking him how he was doing and how his wife and three young girls were handling life. He was upbeat, noting that they were moving into the area from the neighboring state. Some things he said included, “Man, they are trying to put me in jail in that state! I had to get out of there!” “My job was just too stressful. I need to do something less stressful.” “I was on the road too much. I just need to drive less and work less hours.” I nodded and smiled, but inside, my stomach turned. In that short conversation, I wondered if I was talking to someone who was truly ready for a full recovery. My heart grieved a bit, since as a former addict, I remembered being there myself many times facing my biggest enemy: pride.

Los Angeles Lakers player Jeremy Lin recently said that the biggest sin he struggled with was pride. I agree with Lin’s assessment, but not for the same reasons that he likely said it. I agree with him because pride is actually the basis for every sin that we commit. And in that case, everyone’s biggest sin is pride, because every sin is a direct result of our belief that we know better than God—the very definition of pride. I wanted to write this series on pride because pride is so prevalent in our lives–especially mine. So let’s talk about the subtle ways pride whispers into our ears and causes us to sin.

One of the loudest things pride says to us is, “It ain’t my fault.” (Did I do that?) This lie is especially a problem for addicts. We tend to blame everyone else—our family, our job, stress, our past, our desires—we will do anything possible to not take the blame for our issues. Sometimes we blame others, sometimes we even blame God (“He never should have given me these desires!”, says the porn addict). But the key to silencing this prideful voice is personal responsibility. We make our own choices, and we need to admit our mistakes. The Bible says that if we do, God will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins (1 John 1:9). Taking responsibility for your actions is one of the best lessons you can learn, as a child AND as an adult. When you make a mistake, you should own up to it, not blame others or your circumstances. My friend’s son spoke nothing of his own misdeeds—he did not own up his mistake of choosing illegal drugs. Instead, he blamed “the system” for what it wanted to do to him and his job for being too stressful and too mobile.

However, when we are ready to be healthy, when we are ready to move forward in life, it’s no longer about blame or making static, circumstantial changes—it’s about accepting responsibility so that real change can take place inside you. You see it in the eyes of every addict who has moved beyond blame and into accountability. They begin to make better choices about things that really matter. They are no longer afraid to admit their mistakes—because humility has assured them that to err is human. If the first step is admitting that you have a problem, then silencing this prideful voice is where most people begin in recovery.

Pride is sneaky, and it shows up in every area of our lives. That’s why we have to be aware of its many voices, dialects, and sounds. As we continue to break down our pride, both in this series and in our lives, may God make us more discerning about how to increase our humility and become more like Him!

What are some other ways pride says, “It ain’t my fault?”

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: The Third Eight

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? –Matthew 7:3

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freeditigalphotos.net

I graduated from high school one week after turning 17 and headed off to college at James Madison University. I spent my first two years at college struggling to find myself and my faith. I struggled with drinking and partying and having no relationship at all with God, at one point even telling my mother I wasn’t sure if I believed in God anymore. While I had stopped looking at pornography when I came to college, it had already taken its place in my mind, changing the way I looked at people and the expectations I had for them. I cut people out of my life if they didn’t meet my criteria for what “good people” were. I judged people, had very little grace, and carried around a great deal of shame.

When I decided to turn my life over to Jesus my junior year, I left my former partying friends and joined a campus ministry, determined to change my course. But even there, I maintained that everything with me was great. No one knew that I was still secretly struggling with my self-worth and self-image, with being transparent and honest with others, and with having true intimacy in my life. I was hiding everything about myself behind academic and musical excellence. I made great friends but felt like no one understood me or the deep shame I had about my pornography addiction and struggles with lust and fantasy. I also continued to push people away with my brash and judgmental personality, leaving a trail of hurt friends in my path as I boldly proclaimed truth without love. I could see the everyone else’s faults, but I could not see my own. Even as God called me into youth ministry once I graduated from JMU, I continued losing these battles. In addition, my relationship with my family became strained. My internal struggles eventually became external, and I was abruptly fired from a youth ministry job. I took a break from working in ministry, believing that everyone else was to blame.

There I was: with broken relationships, a struggling career, and very little to call my own. I was too broken to see it then, but looking back, I can see that the common denominator in my problems was me. Too often people will look at their lives and say that they have constantly been victimized or dealt a bad hand—and sometimes, this is true. Other times, however, we are too quick to look at outside sources as the cause for our problems while refusing to look within. Why? Because it is easier to place blame than accept it. Even the Bible acknowledges this in Matthew 7:3—I was more likely to see others’ issues than my own. And Matthew 7:5 continues, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” And to be successful in ministry and life as a prophet gift, I would need to learn this difficult but important lesson.

In response to her penchant for writing songs about her failed relationships, someone said, “Did Taylor Swift ever consider that maybe she’s the problem?” Great question! Now, can we turn that around on ourselves, in our own situations, and ask, “Have I ever considered that perhaps I am the problem?” Because it’s when we are brave enough to look in the mirror instead of the windshield that we can begin to truly tackle our own issues and begin to heal.

Where do you most often look when problems arise: the windshield or the mirror?

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: The Second Eight

“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

The hurt and loss from my first eight years never showed itself too much—I think my mother would say that I was a happy, well-adjusted child. I continued to excel in school and music, became incredibly involved in my church and youth group, and contributed to my community through volunteering and other fun activities. On the surface, everything seemed to be going extremely well for me, despite the deteriorating relationship with my father; despite a sister who was beginning to show signs of instability (requiring most of my mother’s attention); despite feeling like a bold, loud “ugly duckling” that no one desired. But soon, the hurt and loss I had experienced manifested itself through a dirty little secret.

It started innocently, really. My uncle had a satellite dish installed in my grandfather’s home because we lived outside the town limits and didn’t have cable television. Little did anyone know that there were some not-so-innocent pornographic channels streaming from the dish for free—not-so-innocent porn that a very innocent 10-year-old me saw and found intriguing. Before long, I was watching it as much as I possibly could. When the satellite dish stopped streaming, I switched to magazines I had found hidden in my grandfather’s house. My brain was filled with images and thoughts that I couldn’t keep inside, so in middle school and high school, I began writing my own pornographic novels, passing them around to my friends and filling their minds with the images and filth that saturated my own. I began experimenting sexually with boys, and I also developed an active fantasy life: an escape from reality—one in which I had control and felt loved and desired. When my sister was losing control or I was feeling rejected by boys or my father or I felt completely alone, I had a “safe place” to go—deep inside my head to fantasy land. On the outside, I was at the top of my class, excelling in music and academics with plenty of friends and an active church life. On the inside, I was struggling to keep it together.

The second eight years of my life reminds me of an important lesson: we should never overestimate the resiliency of children. We often say “kids are resilient” in hopes that the traumas they experience will just roll off them like water off a duck’s back. However, children are still humans with feelings, and even more importantly, they do not always know how to express what they are feeling. And when they do not know how to express their feelings, they will act out—and acting out looks different to each kid. For me, I acted out in secret. To everyone, including my mother, I was the “good Christian kid.” I played well by myself, could spend infinite amounts of time alone, got great grades, was incredibly responsible, and was a model child for the most part. My mom had no trouble with me because I was very good at hiding my pornography addiction, fantasy life, and sexual sins. But those were just the symptoms of a deeper issue: the hurt, rejection, and loss I had experienced in the first eight years of my life. And instead of addressing those issues, I developed other problems and addictions to cope. We notice when adults do this, but we don’t always recognize when it happens with children because we assume they will “get over it” easier. I can tell you from my own personal experience that this is not the case.

The Bible says in Luke 8:17 that all things that are in secret will eventually be brought into the light. Whether it comes to light through confession or a “symptom” like addiction, the truth is simple: we cannot outrun or overlook our hurt and pain at any age.

What hurt have you been trying to overlook or outrun?

Authentic Responsibilities: That’s a Wrap!

wrap up presents by Boians Cho Joo Young

image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / freedigitalphotos.net

I want to close out this series on authentic responsibilities by giving you a list of all fourteen authentic responsibilities. Reading them all together in a list challenges me: I have the list printed out and posted on my wall as a reminder of my responsibilities to myself and others. I’m still working on all of these, especially clear communication and letting others know my thoughts and feelings. But the most important part is that I know what I should be doing and that I am working to improve them each and every day. Don’t let this list overwhelm you! Instead, my prayer is that you have been challenged to become more authentically responsible in your own life. Open the gift of one authentic responsibility and experience the difference–there’s no time like the present! (See what I did there? HAHA!)

  1. I alone am responsible for judging (evaluating, assessing) me – my motives (intent, needs, feelings, spirituality, abilities, intelligence, priorities, values) and to determine any adjectives that describe me. Therefore, I may refuse any judgment of me.
  2. I am not obligated to answer to a human being for why I do what I do (to justify my behaviors). That type of self-disclosure is a gift.
  3. I have the responsibility to choose whether I offer help for other people’s problems. I make my own commitments; no one can obligate me to that which I’m not committed.
  4. I am responsible for taking care of me and appropriately assisting those I’m committed to. I will sometimes change my mind. My new choice does not have to be justified and does not indicate that I have chosen irresponsibly.
  5. As a human being, I will make mistakes. I am responsible to make appropriate restitution which may include expressions of regret or sorrow, but not guilt.
  6. As a human being, I will sometimes not know the answer to a question. I am responsible to say “I don’t know,” continue respecting myself, and not accept any disrespect for “not knowing.”
  7. As a human being, I will sometimes act in a way that has unforeseen negative consequences for another. I am responsible for my own contributing to those consequences without requiring myself to have had prior knowledge I didn’t have.
  8. As a human being, I will make some decisions that others may describe as illogical. I am responsible to make decisions according to all my senses, including my sense of logic.
  9. When I do not understand any type of communication, I am responsible to ask for clarification without apology.
  10. I am responsible for deciding if and what I want to improve about me and responsible to refuse any disrespect for me about not caring to improve in a particular way.
  11. I am responsible to decide what is right for me and what is important to me.
  12. I am responsible for letting others know how I feel and what I think, instead of requiring them to read my mind.
  13. I am responsible for expressing myself without disrespecting the other and, when I do, to seek forgiveness and make plans to avoid repeating the disrespect.
  14. I am responsible to require courtesy and respect toward me.

Kathryn Chamberlin, LCSW-C

Authentic Responsibilities: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Authentic Responsibility #14: I am responsible to require courtesy and respect toward me. 

respect by PinkBlue

image courtesy of PinkBlue / freedigitalphotos.net

For three years, I worked in a hostile office environment with two insecure superiors who did not like each other. In addition, they spent many days belittling everyone in the office to make themselves feel better. One of my superiors especially loved calling out mistakes in front of other people in the office to make herself look and feel smarter. After three long years of being belittled, I decided that enough was enough. She called me out over something small in front of office visitors, and I took my stand. I told her that she was being rude and disrespectful and that when I made a mistake, she could quietly point it out to me instead of being so rude and condescending. This simple move made my last few weeks in the position more manageable, and I received better treatment from this coworker as a result.

President Obama may not know how to spell it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t require it for yourself! Mark 12:31 says, “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving yourself—requiring respect for yourself—is an important commandment from the Lord that we should follow. So here are the ABCs of requiring courtesy and respect for yourself:

  • Ask from the start. The moment someone disrespects you (or shortly after), you should deal with it to avoid any future problems. My coworker had treated me like this since day one, and because she treated everyone this way, I allowed it. This was my fault, and I was very frustrated for three years in my job because of it. I let my coworker believe that her behavior was acceptable! However, had I addressed it from the beginning, it may have led to a more peaceful working environment and a better relationship with this coworker. When you require respect from the beginning, you can build a base on which relationships thrive.
  • Be strong and courageous. It can be hard to tell someone that you don’t like the way they treat you. However, the Lord is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9)—even into difficult conversations with people about how they behave toward us. Although I addressed my coworker’s behavior late, I still received the strength I needed to speak firmly and boldly to her about her actions. You can have that same power behind you through prayer and a close relationship with Christ. The Bible says that His grace is enough for us and that His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So boldly go into His presence and then have that hard conversation about getting the respect and courtesy you deserve.
  • Care for others like you want them to care for you. Mark 12:31 is an instruction about how we are to be treated as well as how we are to treat others. My coworker expected nothing but respect from me; however, when I called her out on her behavior, she left the office crying. She wanted to be able to disrespect me but be respected herself. We must remember that to get the respect and love we deserve, we have to treat others with that same respect and love. It may not come back to us through them, but it will return to us! Practice what you preach: begin to show more love and honor in your relationships (but with proper boundaries).

All relationships are a two-way street, but with proper boundaries, you can be authentically responsible and require the respect and courtesy that you deserve!

How do you require respect and courtesy toward yourself?

Authentic Responsibilities: No Disrespect

Authentic Responsibilities #13: I am responsible for expressing myself without disrespecting the other and, when I do, to seek forgiveness and make plans to avoid repeating the disrespect. 

rude polite sign by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I needed to have a difficult conversation, and I was ready to express myself. I pulled my friend aside to speak to her privately. I told her the truth with no sugar-coating: that in our ministry, no one liked her; that she was bossy; and that she needed to step back from taking over everything and allow more creativity in our group. However, I stressed that—in Christian love—she could still be a part of the group if she would just stop trying to take over. She burst into tears. I hugged her and told her I hated to bear this bad news, but since it was true, someone needed to tell her.

This situation happened in college, and obviously during that time, I was emotionally immature and didn’t handle this well. Authentic responsibility #13 focuses on expressing ourselves without disrespecting others, and apologizing when we do. However, I know better now and want to share with you three ways to conquer this authentic responsibility with ease:

  • Express your feelings only. Many of our feelings are based on ideas and thoughts that we have assumed about another person/people, not on what is reality. In my situation, I should’ve started out with, “I felt very hurt that you took over, like the established leadership was not good enough.” Notice I named the feeling and the assumption that I had made about her: that I was hurt and that my leadership wasn’t good enough. This communicates what I was feeling and gives an idea about where I stand and why. In addition, I shouldn’t have said what I thought other people thought! Focus on your own feelings and not the other person’s personality, feelings, or assumed thoughts.
  • Express yourself respectfully. I gave an example of expressing your own feelings. Some call this using “I” statements, but “I think you are dumb” and “I hate it when you…” are also “I” statements—albeit inflammatory, insensitive, and rude ones. The things I said to my friend were disrespectful and hurtful—they did not build her up or strengthen our friendship just because I was “honest.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” When you are expressing yourself, choose your words wisely and build others up—don’t tear them down.
  • Express your sincere apology. There will be times when we express ourselves in a way that is not respectful to others. I thought about doing it (purposefully) to someone this morning! We may not to WANT to express ourselves in a respectful and loving way, and sometimes, that desire is going to become a reality. When it does, however, we need to sincerely apologize to the person we have offended for being rude, hurtful, and disrespectful. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to each other so that we can be healed, so go to your brother or sister and apologize! I apologized to my friend several years later, and she was gracious and loving—and I was able to move forward in healing.

We are not always going to be perfect in this authentic responsibility—it is a constant struggle for me! However, if we keep these three ideas in mind, we can begin to mature emotionally and be authentically responsible as we express ourselves to others.

How easy is it for you to express yourself to others respectfully?