Monday, August 12, 2013

Resisting the Urge to Change Others

I have fought all my life to resist the urge to change others. I want to fix things that are broken. I am a problem-solver. I am a nurturer. However, that doesn't give me the right to decide who needs to be changed and how.   

I've written often about this fault of mine. I try to recall the famous Serenity Prayer to help me know what can be changed and what cannot. Unfortunately, I recall it after I've opened my mouth and inserted my foot.

When Jesus walked this earth, I am sure there were things about his rather earthy and blue-collar disciples that he found imperfect. Never once in the stories about him do we hear of him criticizing them for normal human faults. There is nothing about crude language and I think I'm safe in assuming that the fishermen and others were rather salty in their talk.  I can further assume that as normal men of this earth, they tended to criticize others, or fib from time to time, or has any one (or many) of the dozens of bad habits a person can have.

There's something I try to recall when I begin to find myself in danger of pushing someone to change something about their ways. Back in the 70s, a friend took me to a Charismatic convention. One of the speakers told of how she and her husband were extremely frustrated trying to change their teen age son's ways. They lectured. They disciplined. They prayed. They did all they could. Finally, they decided to turn it over to the Father.

She told of how, when they came into the kitchen and saw the jug of milk on the table, lid off, milk dripping down the side, and the son nowhere in sight, they changed their reactions. Instead of yelling for him to scold him, they'd look at each other and say, "Thank heaven he managed to get some wholesome milk into his system today." When he came home much later than their family curfew allowed, instead of scolding, they'd tell him, "We're glad you are home safe. Now get a good night's rest."

They went on like this, hard as it was, for a while. One day, the son came into the kitchen and said to them, "Please, yell at me or do something. I know I've been a real pain. I don't understand how you can put up with it. In fact, I've decided to try to change my ways a little here and there. It might take a while, but I will try.

Now, these are not the exact words the speaker used, but it's the best my memory can do. You get the idea, I am sure. And every year or so, I have to remind myself of their methods. The idea is obvious. They did not try to change their son. They changed their reactions to their son's action.
Father, help me to remember all these things when I am frustrated by the actions of one or two folks I know or love. Be patient with me when I am impatient. Help me to change myself rather than others.  I need all the help you can give me.  

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