Archive for April, 2016

Rethinking Life

Most of us have no idea how much we need to rethink life. We are molded by our homes, peer groups and society to think certain ways. But those ways often need to be changed if we want to see life the way it really is.

For example, as a young man, I thought that if I impressed people and achieved a lot I would be more important. This proved to be wrong. I thought that earning the respect and approval of certain people would make me more loved. This proved to be wrong as well. I also believed that I had to plan and carry out the responsibities of life without any help from God. This proved to be wrong too.

Why Rethink Life

I have marveled at how some of my friends were able to follow the script that they were given from childhood into seemingly happy and productive lives. But I had to do a lot of rethinking. My script didn’t work that well. And I think my friends also needed to do more rethinking. Why rethink life?

Because God says to do it. He says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing (rethinking) of your minds” (Romans 12:2). He also says to put off the old and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24). We all need to be transformed by changing our thinking to conform to God’s thinking.

Our pasts often fill us with foolish ideas about what is true and how to live life. We can change this by rethinking life according to what the Bible says. God says, “The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). But only as we compare our thinking to what God says in the Bible and change our thinking, will we be set free from the limitations of false thinking.

How to Rethink Life

The first step to rethinking life is to become aware of what we think and how we feel about life. We can tell what we think by what we depend on to tell us what reality is. For example, if we are afraid of the disapproval of certain people, we are thinking that acceptance by people is needed for us to avoid painful rejection. But God says he will never reject us! (Hebrews 13:5). Rethinking gets us to the point that we never have to fear rejection for it will never happen. However, we can be snubbed or hurt by others, but that is not devastating like true rejection.

Once we are aware of what we think and feel, we need to compare this to what God says reality is. “I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws” (Psalm 119:59, NLT). When we find that God’s reality is different than ours, we need to cooperate with him in rethinking life. For example, if we think that we aren’t very important and God says in Isaiah 43:4 that we are precious and honored, who are we to believe? We are to believe God and continue the painful process of separating from depending on our false thinking.

Another way to rethink life is Scripture meditation. A habit I developed early in my Christian life was to put on small cards a verse or two that ministers to me. I carry these small cards with me and memorize the verses and meditate on them at various times throughout the day. I ask myself the question “What is God saying to me right now through this verse?” Over the years, God has used this habit to help me rethink my life in many ways.

Recently, I was challenged to rethink how I saw myself. I came into adulthood thinking I wasn’t very important without achieving, not free to be myself in all areas, and needing to impress to feel loved. Over the years, I have done a lot of rethinking about these things and regard them as lies, but they still influence me to some extent. So, I listed my old thinking about myself, and then listed how God thinks of me. What a difference! God sees me as very important, enjoyable, and deeply loved.

So, I burned the list of how I used to view myself and buried the ashes. I then took the list of how God sees me, tied it to a helium-filled balloon and let it soar into the sky. These acts symbolize how our old thinking needs to die in the face of embracing God’s glorious thinking about life.



Read Full Post »

I often get a chill down my spine when I am about to get some constructive criticism. I know it’s good for me, but I still fear it.

Recently, I have asked several friends and colleagues to give me some honest feedback on a draft book I have written. I asked them to tell me what they liked about the book and what they didn’t. I also asked them how they would make the book better. I did this because I know it’s wise to seek advice from many respected counselors. But I feel dread that they won’t like it and I’ll have to do a major rewrite.

I am comforted when I think of what happened to Harper Lee, who wrote the Pulitzer – prizing winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Her publisher made many constructive criticisms to her first draft. Instead of being discouraged by the criticism, she incorporated the changes and created the award-winning book that became the story for the first-class movie by the same name.

This dislike of criticism often affects leaders. Good leaders will hire around their weaknesses, not their strengths. But many leaders won’t do that. One of the reasons is that they like people who reinforce their biases and ways of doing business. They don’t like constructive criticism, even when it leads to better results in the long-run.

I once had a boss that hired me because I was strong in ethics, which he considered a weakness of his. We sometimes disagreed on what the ethical action was during the five years I worked for him, but he seemed to respect my positions and hopefully this helped his ethics. Many years after I quit working for him, he was sent to prison for unethical behavior. I still wonder if he would have gone to prison if I had remained in his employment and been allowed to constructively criticize his ethics when appropriate.

Why We Often Hate Constructive Criticism

Many of us hang onto a fragile sense of worth. We believe that we are important if people agree with us, respect us, or are impressed with our achievements. Constructive criticism can punch holes in our illusions that we are important because we are great or are beyond improvement. As a result, we sometimes avoid receiving honest feedback, which is stupid (Proverbs 12:1). We fail to accept the truth that our worth is great and unchangeable and does not depend on being impressive.

Another reason we hate constructive criticism is that it hurts. We are short-sighted and evaluate the criticism by how it makes us feel now, not the good that will come from it in the future (Hebrews 12:11).

A third reason we hate criticism is that sometimes it’s not constructive. It’s false and destructive. We need to evaluate the credibility of the person who is providing us with the criticism to help us determine if it’s constructive.

A fourth reason we hate constructive criticism is that we don’t want to improve. We would rather stay in the status quo and live lies, than to accept the painful reality of the criticism and grow. Recently my wife commented that I wouldn’t snore as much if I would lose a few pounds. I resented her constructive criticism. I wanted to fool myself into thinking I didn’t need to lose weight so that I wouldn’t have to make painful changes in my diet and exercise.

How We Should Respond to Constructive Criticism

Our first response to constructive criticism should be to expect it. God tells us that he is training us to improve in whatever we do as a way of life (Proverbs 6:23). Our seventy or eighty years on earth are not to demonstrate our god-like qualities or skills, but to grow more like him in our attitudes, actions, and power. He often uses constructive criticism to grow us.

But isn’t this criticism going to tear down our self-esteem? No, if we’re anchored in seeing ourselves as God sees us, a child he dearly loves and respects. We can then remain secure in our worth even when we are brought face-to-face with the need to improve.

When we cling to the need to earn worth through achievements or to go a certain direction, we can view constructive criticism as a threat. But when we rest in who we are to God (already precious) and going God’s way the best way to go (Matthew 6:33), we can better receive God’s instructions through the criticism.

As I have received some criticism lately, what criticism have you received? May we take our criticisms to God in prayer and ask him if they’re constructive. If they are, let’s ask him for the desire and strength to follow his path to growth.

















Read Full Post »