Years ago, a young friend of mine was screwing up his marriage so bad, I could hardly watch. If there’s a list of things to do wrong, he checked every box. My friend John is the one I always go to when I don’t know what to do. So, I asked John how I should go about helping my young friend. “How do I get this guy’s attention?” I asked. “What will make him focus on his real issues and stop playing games? Is there any way to motivate him to stop lying to himself so he can make real progress?”
John said there are three paths to making progress . . . three things that will lead a man to deal with his “stuff” . . .
- Voluntary engagement – “I see what’s happening around me. I listen to people in my life who care about me enough to confront me. I poke around enough to understand how I’m hurting my relationships. I look at myself in the mirror and make an honest assessment. Then I decide what to do differently and, more importantly, I ask for help. I engage other people to go with me as I tackle what I need to change about myself.” This road to progress is the quickest, smartest, and involves the least pain and collateral damage.
- Pattern of failure – “As I fail multiple times in relationships at home or work, I begin to get a whiff of the problem. But I let myself off the hook and chalk it up to other factors at play. But then another relationship fails, another fight with my wife puts us sleeping in separate beds, another promotion passes me by, and I realize the common denominator in all those situations is . . . me. After multiple failures, I finally look myself in the mirror, take ownership, ask for help, and start to make progress.” This path involves more pain and hardship than the first, but not it’s not nearly as severe as the next.
- Harsh discipline of reality – “If I don’t voluntarily engage or connect the dots of a pattern of failure, the harsh discipline of reality gets my attention. A person I thought I was close to turns against me. My wife leaves and heads straight for divorce court. I lose my job. I’m invited off the board. There is no denying it . . . I’m the problem!” This is the ugliest path to progress. And the most expensive . . . emotionally, relationally, financially.
Another friend of mine phrased the same idea this way, “God’s going to get my attention if He wants it. He’ll start with a whisper. Then He’ll be loud and direct. But then if He has too, He gets out His baseball bat.”
It’s a progression from light to heat. Shining light on the problem and voluntarily engaging it is by far the smartest and least painful choice. But if we’re not honest with ourselves and we let our stuff create patterns of failure that if still unchecked, ultimately lead to the harsh discipline of reality . . . light becomes heat, and the whisper becomes a baseball bat.
We all have stuff to deal with . . . so, which path to progress will you choose?
Question: As we move into 2020, is there an issue you know you need to address? Something like anger. Or holding grudges. Or a critical spirit? Or talking about people behind their backs? Or lies you’ve told and keep telling? Or drinking a lot more than anyone knows or would believe? Or the relationship that’s sapping emotional energy from your marriage?