Book Excerpt: Intentionality with Others
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Welcome! This excerpt is from my upcoming book The Dented Fender: Using What’s Broken to Boldly Shine. This is from my chapter on being intentional in our relationships with others, especially if we’ve experienced hurt or pain within that relationship. I’d love to hear what you think in the comment section below! EXCERPT One of the most intentional action steps you can take with your key relationships is to apply the principles you’ve learned—vision, connection, connection with others, bravery, intentionality, consistency, boldly shine—to the relationship itself. Take the time to create or re-create a God-given vision for where your relationship can go. Be sure it’s God’s vision for you, not your own vision masked as being God’s.
That means your vision should be realistic. Too often, we create a vision for our relationships, especially our family relationships, loosely based on Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch episodes. Man, have I been there! I got so attached to an ideal that the ideal itself became an idol in my life, something I unknowingly worshipped. I was more interested in maintaining an image instead of embracing what I actually had in front of me. I should have fought to engage with the people I loved in a real, tangible way, to embrace the messiness that comes with family life. But I clung to the illusion over the relationships.
When my vision was an idol, it made me question my decisions, and even struggle to enjoy the good moments because I was too busy worrying and analyzing about what was or wasn’t, or constantly wondering if I was settling, or being too much of one thing or not enough of another. It was exhausting! How freeing it was when I allowed God to smash that idol for me, and replace it with a flesh and blood vision, one that was driven by Christ and not by my need for perfection. Everyone around me benefited from that change.
You will know when your vision is being driven by you, and not by Jesus, by the results you see. Jesus says, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). Put another way, if your vision comes from God, it will begin to materialize and you will experience positive change.
Here are some examples to consider:
SELF VISION: I want my family to be the best on the block, and for my kids to be really popular. GODLY VISION: I would like to see my family be connected and close, to support each other even when it’s hard more often than not.
SELF VISION: My spouse and I will wake up every day in each other’s arms, joyful and full of love for each other at all times. GODLY VISION: My spouse and I will love and respect each other most days. We will consistently make time for one another.
SELF VISION: I will become the best parent around, and people will step back and take notice of all my effort. GODLY VISION: I will intentionally work toward growing in my parenting skills, remembering to walk in God’s grace for me, so my kids can benefit.
SELF VISION: My relationships will be a great example for Christ and motivate people to want to be more like us in order to experience Jesus. GODLY VISION: My family will embrace our messiness and our challenges so we can become more like Christ, and be an example of hope and the power of what God can do, even through us.
SELF VISION: I will handle all conflicts at work precisely and effectively so the leadership takes notice and promotes me. GODLY VISION: I will continue to work on and grow in my ability to work through conflict at work, asking for feedback, so I can more effectively represent Christ.
Setting vision isn’t about building yourself up, or reaching for perfection; it’s about becoming more like Christ. Letting go of an unrealistic ideal frees you from operating from guilt or from consistent disappointment. There is no such thing as a perfect family, a perfect parent or creating a pain-free childhood for our children, no matter how much we wish it to be. We are not perfect. There was only one person who walked through this life perfectly: Jesus. We still killed Him. Perfection doesn’t guarantee an outcome. Genuine, heart-felt, visionary change that is brave, intentional and consistent allows us to grow and produce good fruit in abundance. For Further Thought: Do you have an unrealistic vision in place? Or no vision? Obviously I’ve been there! I found my relationships grew the most when I set up a realistic vision, which included healthy boundaries and standards for how I should be treated, and chose to embrace the messiness as well as the blessings that come part and parcel in dealing with people. If you haven’t done so yet, set some time aside this week to prayerfully tackle creating a realistic vision (or boundaries and standards) through prayer, scripture, and wise advice. If you do, it will be a gift you give to both yourself and others over time. Remember Proverbs 12:26: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Thoughtful care matters in relationships! Don’t be led astray like I was; put a thoughtful vision in place.