Key Ingredients of Change

Over and over again I hear people talk about what brings about change in a person. Especially for folks struggling with sexual integrity issues like pornography, visiting prostitutes, strip clubs or massage parlors. Once sexually addicted, the question becomes even more difficult to answer. Psychotherapy and counseling some people say. Only God, others say. Circumstances. The twelve steps. Crisis.

I’m going to suggest there are 3 key ingredients that facilitate change. Sure, we can name a bunch of things that help, but I’m suggesting that if these 3 aren’t present, true change will not occur.

First, being unwilling to accept our personal status quo. I was talking with Shelley last night and, after she expressed a way I had hurt her, thought about the reality that I’m kind of tired of being me. At least, I’m tired of that part of me; that way of living. We all know that feeling where we just sort of realize we’ve become comfortable with the status quo. The question becomes: will we do something about it? People who are unwilling to change reach a point where they consider it adequate to measure the present against the past. The mindset here is saying, “at least I’m not who I used to be” instead of “I’m not yet who I could be, who God is calling me to be”. If we want to guarantee change, we cannot accept that who we are today will suffice for the future God has for us. We must be unwilling to accept our personal status quo.

Second, we must challenge our constants. Sounds pretty underwhelming, I know, but it can be surprising how much we’re willing to accept about ourselves because it’s how we’ve always been. We land at our age, be it 25, 45, 55, 75 years old and we’re “just the way we are”. But how’d we get there? Because we didn’t challenge the constants. To guarantee change is to question our norms, our standards and our default settings. It is to question our motives, why we believe what we believe and why want to believe what we believe. It means we have to question the narrative by which we live, and ask ourselves where it would be more meaningful to just tear up the script.

Third, in order to change we need to humbly submit ourselves to people who are unwilling to accept our personal status quo and who will challenge our constants. You know the people who, when you bring something up and sort of know what their response is going to be, blind-side you with some out-of-left-field question that puts you on your heels? Those are the folks I’m talking about. One of my accountability partners in the early days, Kurt, would always ask “5 whys” when he was digging into something in me. He’d take my first answer and toss it like garbage. Then my second, he’d give a little “hmm” and challenge a 3rd answer to be more insightful. Eventually, even if we didn’t get to 5 (which when we did was super-frustrating and made me hate Kurt some mornings!), we went beyond the status quo, beyond the easy answer, and deeper than I typically thought.

Maybe the people that do that for you are your accountability partners. Perhaps it’s a counselor. Maybe it’s the pastor you listen to on Saturdays or Sundays. Could be the guys at poker night. It might even be what you read that does it for you. We have to humbly submit ourselves to people who won’t let us stay the same.

I believe if we’ll adopt a posture of humility, submit to others’ input, challenge ourselves, and stop measuring progress by what we’re not doing anymore we actually make ourselves malleable. We become willing to see what we were once blind to, and become perceptive to what the Spirit prompts in us. We become moldable in the hands of God to be made like his son.

KitchenConversation – Triggers and Trust

Apologies in advance….this one is a long one…

Watch for Part 2 soon!

 

Love – Patience and Anger

 

Love_Overlooks

Before we dive in and unpack thes attributes, I want to point out the kind of love we’re dealing with. Remember, in the Greek there were 4 different types of love: eros, storge, philia and agape. Each had a different meaning and application. These all get lumped into our modern day term, “love”. So we use the same word when we describe our affinity for certain foods (I love fried okra) and our affection for our spouses (I love my wife). Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, what Paul is describing in these verses is Agape. To keep it simple, think of agape as “loving even without any self-benefit”. Of the 4 types of love, this one requires the most of us. It requires the most work.

P.S. – I already don’t like where this is going….

The first attribute of love that Paul names is patience. The Greek word is: makrothymeō. It means ‘to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. To be slow to avenge or punish.’ I like what one commentator, Matthew Henry, says about it:

It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Patience is a powerful, strong, and willful thing. It is having the position and power to punish, yet choosing not to. Isn’t it interesting that the first thing Paul says about love is that it’s slow to punish? Logically it makes sense to me; if we avenge or punish our partner quickly after an offense, there is no time for sorting things out, explaining intentions, reconciliation or redemption. It just explodes.

Let’s think about it for a minute: what does it look like to hold back punishment? For me it means not popping-off with some hurtful comment. It also looks like engaging the conversation rather than giving Shelley the cold-shoulder. Another angle is that when I am hurt I withhold compliments and/or affection; that’s punishment too.

How do you punish your spouse and what might it look like to practice patience?

This patience thing leads me to another question though:  does Love ever get angry? Does the text say that Love means I’ll never be angry with my spouse?

No, it doesn’t. In fact this is addressed by another attribute: being slow to anger. Depending on the translation you may also see it as “not irritable” and also “not easily provoked”. Here again, background is important. The Greek word is, paroxynō, meaning to ‘provoke, irritate or rouse to anger.’The concept this term conveys is easily misunderstood. We might be inclined to read it as “love does not get angry”, which misses the heart of the matter. Instead, think of it as a quick temper; Love doesn’t have a quick temper. Loving in this way means we don’t fly-off-the-handle. While we may in fact become angry, it is only after we have practiced patience. It is similar in notion to what is described in Isaiah 5:25; “Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people. “ God wasn’t irritated so he wanted to quickly prove his point. Nor was he responding to being provoked or taunted. He was roused to anger, over time, by the idolatrous lifestyle of his people. He didn’t just lose his stuff one afternoon and make a rash decision to punish his children. It took time. He was patient.

Thus, the gist of what Paul is describing for us is a love that is going to overlook as many offenses as it can, for as long as it can, in hopes of a change in relationship.

That is so counter to my concept of love. I thought love meant Shelley should change what bothers me so I don’t have to overlook anything. If she would act differently, then I would act differently. See the conditions on that? Thus the work of love was on her, not me. We now know that’s not love at all; its selfishness.

The question I’m asking myself in light of this new understanding, and perhaps you’d like to ask yourself, is this:

In what ways am I asking my wife to change to make it easier for me to be patient and slow to anger?