As we continue to clean the dirt out of our glass and fill it with fresh water we will begin to change and grow our perspective. We will encounter situations that may have previously caused us to respond in a negative way, but as we renew our minds we will now approach them in a more positive manner. I would love to share a great story that demonstrated this very clearly for me last month.
Mine and Beth’s church leads a 3 day service project every summer called Mission Jax. This year we found out when we arrived that we would be cutting down a bamboo forest about six feet deep and four hundred feet long. Public service announcement – NEVER PLANT BAMBOO ON YOUR PROPERTY. It is beautiful to look at, but it is a nightmare to remove.
This was extremely tiring physical labor in the Florida summer sun. Our volunteer base at this particular location was a few adults and several youth group members ages 10 – 16. Unfortunately the younger volunteers were not able to help much because they were not strong enough to cut down the bamboo.
When I am given a chance to serve I always want to serve to the best of my ability and I expect others around me to do the same, especially in matters of physical labor. On the second day I noticed there was a group of five or six youth group members standing around not getting much work done. One of the young men was working and the others were not helping too much. One of the young men, we will call him Juan, was goofing off and distracting the others from working. When I saw this I was rather upset. I have a really hard time dealing with goofballs who want to prevent others from being productive, especially teenage boys.
I have been coaching teenage boys for over a decade and this just gets under my skin. Although I was an adult I realized I did not have any influence with this young man I did not know so I did not hop in there and set him straight like I may be inclined to do with an athlete on my team. It was right before lunch so I let them continue and I decided to approach him when we got back to work.
Although Juan was not acting like it I know something about men. We want to work hard and be recognized for our efforts. I knew that deep down Juan was a good kid and somewhere along the way he allowed too many other people speak words of death over him. I am sure he was told lies like he was lazy, a goofball, not good at hard things, etc. Over time these words that were spoken over him crept into his thought processes and he began to act in accordance with how he viewed himself.
“People rise and fall to meet your level of expectations. If you express skepticism and doubt in others, they will return your lack of confidence with mediocrity. But if you believe in them and expect them to do well, they will go the extra mile trying to do their best.” – John Maxwell
With that understanding I decided to speak life into him instead and I was amazed to see the instant change in him. Just as lunch ended I went right up to him in front of all of the other kids and I said, “Juan I have a really important job and I need your help with it.” Immediately the other kids began to jump in and tell me I was making a mistake because Juan was lazy. I refused to believe their lies and I refused to allow them to speak words of death over him. I said, “No Juan is not lazy. He is a hard worker. In fact he is the only one who works hard enough to keep up with me. That is why I asked him to help me.”
That put a puzzled look on the other kids’ faces and a smile on Juan’s face. We immediately left the group and the two of us got to work by ourselves. We worked hard and we worked fast. In fact the two of use cleared more bamboo than the group of the other six kids combined and Juan was able to keep up with me the whole time. He never complained and he never cracked jokes to distract us from the task. When we had finished I thanked him for his help, told him he worked hard, and watched him go off to another section without me and he continued to work hard and not goof off like before.
Juan’s story raises a good question. What do you do when you encounter a difficult situation with someone? Do you automatically focus on everything they are doing wrong or what you disagree with them about? Or do you seek first to understand them and connect with them before presenting solutions. Now I will be the first to admit that patience and empathy are not innate strengths of mine, but they are areas where I am growing a lot. We all need to evaluate how we view others because we all God’s children.
Imagine what would happen if we intentionally spoke life to everyone around us. How would that rude coworker treat you? How much stronger would your marriage be if you and our spouse did not blame each other, but instead you only told each other the things you appreciate about one another? What would your relationship be like with your children if you told them all of their awesome attributes instead of constantly point out their flaws? How would that troubled teenager in your class respond if you told him about all of the potential you saw in him to do good in the world? I encourage you to grow your perspective and speak life into others.
Question: What is a situation or relationship in your life where you could stop focusing on what is and start speaking life to the possibilities of what could be? Comment below