When I saw the notification on my smartphone screen and read the first few words I knew the message wasn’t going to be a fun one to read. I dreaded opening that message and maybe I should have ignored it, but instead I decided to bite the bullet and read a scolding I had expected to come in the form of a phone call instead.
The words on the page were a surprise to me, full of accusations I hadn’t expected. In the past an encounter like this would have sent me spiraling into a deep depression and a long period of self doubt. The fact I cried uncontrollably for two hours, versus four, and only flew off into a rage-induced rant twice after the incident is something I count as progress, even if others wouldn’t.
And the fact I never even answered the person, but instead deleted the message and blocked them from my social media so I could regroup and cool down? That’s a complete about turn from my reactions of the past.
There I was, reading something written to me by someone who was hurt and had misunderstood, and I found my emotions mixed. My first reaction was the familiar anger that sets in when I feel as if I am being attacked. Then I felt sad and like I had done something wrong. I wanted to gush out an admission of my guilt, like I usually do, even though I knew at least one thing they were upset by was a complete misunderstanding.
This time, though, the anger, depression and guilt was soon replaced with a sense of unexpected calm and a feeling that what was said wasn’t going to change my mind about the decision made.While I once would doubt a decision, or even change it, based on criticism from someone, this time I didn’t let my resolve waiver. I knew what we had done was in the best interest of our family and I wasn’t going to let that decision be shaken by what someone else thought of me.
It isn’t that I am unwilling to admit my wrong in a situation, but I’ve spent far too much of my life believing I need to change who I am, or the decisions I’ve made, based on the opinions of someone else.
It’s definitely hard when we feel the judgments of others and know that somewhere out in the universe is someone who isn’t a fan of us. But in reality it doesn’t matter if other humans aren’t our fans. We all know we aren’t perfect and that the only opinion that really matters is the opinion of The One who created us.
To be able to see progress within ourselves is so satisfying, even when we know we have so much more to learn and so many more positive changes to make. Most of us are never satisfied with who we are. We often think we’ll never improve, or bid farewell to some of our more annoying character flaws.
We won’t change or improve overnight. God knows this. He only wants us to take steps, small ones even, to become more like Him.
“Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth,” pastor and author Rick Warren says. “Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.”
Paul wrote often about the process of becoming like Christ, knowing that we will stumble and fall, just at the disciples did, even as they walked with Christ on Earth.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.
We often look ahead at how far we have to go in our journey, but we rarely look back and see how far we’ve come. While we don’t want to dwell on the past, it doesn’t hurt to recognize the progress we have made along our journey.
Maybe we aren’t where we want to be, but if we are making small steps toward improvement, then we should acknowledge the progress, no matter how small.