Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Give grace away because nobody is perfect

How often do you get frustrated with people? I wish I could tell you I was the epitome of patience and forgiveness. But I’m not. Not even on my best days.

Some people just have a gift for finding every button I have, and they seem to thrill at pushing it over and over and over again. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. Most of the time, I don’t think they even realize that they’re doing it.

Seriously. Think about it. Not every person who drives you nuts is a jerk. It could be that they are oblivious to how they are bothering you, and in that case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to talk it out.

What it really comes down to is understanding that nobody’s perfect. We say that. We say it about ourselves. We say it about each other. But do we really believe it?

Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:13.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived in a world where nobody screwed up? Where everyone loved each other? Where no one hurt each other?

That world is coming one day, but it’s not here yet. For now, we’re locked into this world where people with the best of intentions still end up walking all over other people. People who may just be trying to do the best they can end up hurting people around them. People who are just people make a wrong move and cause irreparable damage.

And what can be done about it? Well, if something wrong was actually done, then learn from it. If mistakes were made, correct them. But what if there was no mistake? What if there was no wrong? What if the only thing two people have against each other is their personalities? What do you do then?

Is one person’s personality wrong?

People come in all shapes and sizes and moods and shades and flavors, and God made them all that way for a reason. He’s got a special plan in mind for every person He’s made (whether they accept that plan is up to them), and while we all do need to do our part, just because your personality doesn’t mesh with someone else’s doesn’t make them wrong. And it doesn’t make you wrong either.

Some people just naturally rub each other the wrong way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love them. That doesn’t mean you can’t forgive them when they drive you crazy. Believe it or not, you probably drive them crazy too. Remember that next time they have you climbing the walls.

The plain and simple truth? Everybody needs grace. Not one person is sufficient to make it through this life without God’s grace. And if God is good enough and big enough and great enough to give us grace for the things that we have done, don’t you think we can give grace to the people around us?

Now, giving grace doesn’t mean you restore someone who screwed up to a position of high authority right away. That goes into trust issues. But what it does mean is that you don’t hold it over their heads. You don’t keep bringing up their screw-ups and you move on.

That’s what God does for us, and that’s what we should do for each other.

So the next time that family member or coworker or fellow church attender does something to make you angry, take a moment and ask yourself if he knows he’s doing it. And if you feel strong enough, ask him about it. If he knows that what he’s doing drives you crazy and he does it anyway, you might want to rethink that relationship. But most likely, he won’t have any idea.

And in that case? Offer some grace. Forgive him and let it go. Life is too busy and too big and too awesome to spend your life fretting over tiny little upsets.

Give grace away. Everyone needs it.

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

You don’t have to be afraid of mistakes

I made a mistake yesterday. Well, actually, I made the mistake about six months ago, but in my line of work, you don’t begin to experience the consequences of it until much later. It was one of those mistakes you make without realizing it. It wasn’t intentional. If anything it was accidental. But it was still a mistake–and I made it.

I hate mistakes. I hate them so much I’m often tempted to not even take risks for the fear of making the wrong move. I don’t want to make a mistake that will hurt me or hurt others, and I’d rather stay where I am–comfortable, confident, knowledgeable–than to put that safety in jeopardy. That’s the way my perfectionist brain works.

But is that how we’re supposed to live?

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Rushing river on the way to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 37:23-24.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Now, I’m not saying that we should live carelessly. God has given us our lives and He’s given us resources and blessings, and we should be good stewards of all that He has given us. But by that same token, remember that He’s the one who gave it, and in just about every instance in Scripture (that I can think of) when God gives somebody something, they’re expected to give it away. The people who hold on to what God’s given them are usually looked at as disobedient or unfaithful.

Have you ever thought about that?

But there’s something in me that wants to protect what God has given me. I want to keep it safe because risking it doesn’t seem like a good way to repay Him for what He’s given me.

But God didn’t give me my resources, my finances, my gifts, my blessings so that I can bury them in a coffee can in my back yard. He gave them to me so that I could invest them in other people–and investments like that never come back with a zero balance. Not where God is concerned.

So why are we afraid? If God has given us everything we have, are we afraid that we’re going to lose it all if we use it to do what He’s asked us to do? I’m all for being responsible, but what does godly responsibility look like?

This is my opinion, but I really think culture has conditioned us to fear mistakes. Nobody wants to be wrong. Nobody wants to take a wrong turn. We have GPS so we never have to experience the humiliation of turning around. We have calculators and computers to do math for us so we don’t have to worry about our equations being wrong. The whole attitude about mistakes has even extended to parents who don’t let kids experience the consequences for the things they choose to do wrong, which is another blog post entirely but is still relevant.

Mistakes aren’t bad. Honestly, mistakes are good for us.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of “mistakes” that can wreck a life. Those aren’t mistakes. That’s sin, and there’s a big difference between the two. Mistakes can be corrected. Sin must be redeemed.

The mistake I made yesterday was stupid and careless, and I hate that I made it. Because it makes me feel stupid and careless. But you know what’s going to happen? I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m experiencing the consequences of that mistake, and I’m going to learn from it.

That’s what mistakes are good for–teaching stubborn, hard-headed perfectionists like me that I’m not always right and that sometimes I need to drop my pride and admit when I’m wrong. Because if I can do that, I can learn something.

If you’re a Christ-follower and you’re seeking God’s will in everything you do, you don’t have to worry. What does that mean practically? That means you ask Him for direction. Literally. Just ask Him. That means you read the Bible and search for an answer to your questions, expecting to find it.

If you’re living that kind of life, don’t be afraid of mistakes. God is directing your steps, and even though you might trip, you aren’t going to fall. God won’t let you.

If you remain open to your mistakes, if you are willing to be humble and learn from them, you don’t have to be afraid of anything.

I’m really dating myself, but when I was thinking about this topic, only one song kept circling my brain. Forgive the 90s era videography and listen to the words. This is the kind of life I want to live, mistakes and all.

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Don’t be stupid

I don’t like calling technical support numbers because inevitably I end up talking to someone who thinks I’m a moron. I would much rather try to figure the problem out on my own with Google’s assistance than to spend the time to call somebody. I think half of that is proving to myself that I don’t need help, even though I recognize that’s pretty silly. But every now and then, you have to call. You have to face the fact that you don’t know everything and that some technical issues are beyond your control.

A recent example? My mom and I have been customers of a cell phone company since February, and while I’m sure their service works fine for people who don’t use their phones so much, it’s really not working for us. In fact, I think we’ve both already worn out the phones we bought from them, plus the fact that the coverage at my house is pitiful (even though they told us it wouldn’t be). So we decided to switch to a nationwide carrier, one that my company offers an employee discount for, and I’m not going to say which one (can you hear me now?).

Mom and I completed the transaction to set up the plan and purchase our phones yesterday afternoon. Well, by the evening we had both received phone calls from this company telling us that there was something wrong with our request to transfer our phone lines. Okay, without going into a whole lot of boring detail, let’s just say I ended up on the phone with them at 7:30 last night trying to figure things out. First, I spoke to a very nice young lady who told me exactly what she thought was wrong and gave me instructions on how to fix it. I got the information she needed and called back. And that’s when I talked to “Mike.”

Have you ever experienced that aha! moment when someone answers the phone and you know instantly that they’re going to be rude? Yup. That was “Mike.” I could tell even in the way he said hello that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. Now, in all fairness to him, I’m sure he was just trying to help, but he was incredibly full of himself. He told me that he couldn’t even look at our account because our numbers weren’t live yet, and whoever I talked to before had been making stuff up, and that he was going to solve all my problems for me. You can always usually tell people who are trying to make themselves sound more official because they use big words that don’t fit the context of what they’re talking about (“on the 19th, your phone account will come into fruition”).

I was really, really irritated. Not only did this guy talk to me like I was a child, he went so far as to tell me that his coworker had given me bad information. He wanted to call our current cell phone provider right then, and I know that’s what they’re supposed to do to verify information, but honestly, he was so unpleasant I didn’t want to deal with him anymore. I just didn’t want to talk to him. So I dismissed myself as quickly as I could and called our current service provider myself.

And as I was waiting to talk to them, I started getting worried. Maybe I had misjudged “Mike” and he really was right about what he’d said. Maybe I’d made some other huge mistake in the account setup process and this was going to take longer to fix than I’d thought! … But then, the very helpful lady at the other service popped on and confirmed everything the first gal I’d talked to said.

“Mike” had been blowing smoke the whole time.

So I called back and talked to a super nice southern gentleman who helped us get everything sorted out, so now we’re good to go. But I remembered a very important lesson about how treat other people that I really felt led to share this morning.

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 12:1.

To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone will be wrong at some point in their life. Just expect it. You’re not perfect, and believe it or not, making mistakes is how you grow. But you only grow from your mistakes if you learn from them. You’ll only get something out of what you’ve done wrong if you recognize that it was wrong and that you shouldn’t do it again.

But time after time, what I’ve noticed is that the people who are the most unpleasant about their knowledge are the ones who are usually wrong. I know a lot of smart people, and the ones who are stuck up and snobby about their intellect are the ones who can’t seem to give me correct information. On the other hand, the really super smart people I know who are humble about the size of their brains are the ones whose input I can trust 100%.

The lesson here? Be pleasant and humble about what you know, even if you are 100% sure you’re right, because you may discover that you’re wrong some day and it’s a lot easier to save face if you’ve been humble about it from the beginning. Remember, even though you’ve worked to attain your intelligence, intellect is a gift from God. You didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be a super genius. That’s not how it works.

So be nice. And also … don’t talk to me like I’m a moron. Because you may end up in a blog post.