While we were visiting family over the 4th, the big ‘treat’ for our niece and nephews was to play on our iPhones. I made the ‘mistake’ of asking them if they wanted to download a new game, so that became the game! Download a game, play it for a second, then download the next free game, play it for a second… you get the drill. But we’re a doting uncle and aunt, so we played along!
As they were wrapping up playing with the phones, my niece started to pour water on it. “No, don’t do that!” we exclaimed. She kind of shrunk back.
She has a tender heart and a huge desire to be helpful. I think sometimes her heart to be helpful gets her in ‘trouble.’ So I wondered what she might be trying to do to be helpful that led her to douse our iPhone? I asked, “Were you trying to wash the phone for us before you gave it back?” She nodded sheepishly. I said, “Thank you for wanting to be so helpful,” and rubbed her back. She unwilted a little.
It’s amazing how often we can do that in life. Someone is well-intended with a good heart to be helpful, and we may quash that in our response or interaction. Too much of that, and we may end up quashing their God-honoring, beautiful heart. Redirect her actions so her desiring-to-be-helpful-heart is helpful? Absolutely. But if she keeps getting in ‘trouble’ when she’s intending to be helpful… well, eventually, she may give up on trying to be helpful.
If she’s wired anything like me.
In the ministry world, it’s hard to get it ‘right.’
- Talk to a newcomer? They feel singled out and don’t come back. Don’t talk to a newcomer? They say no one reached out to them and don’t come back.
- Respond quickly to an e-mail from a key congregation person? They get upset you didn’t give it an appropriate amount of time for thought. Don’t respond quickly? They get upset that they aren’t a priority.
- Cook a meal for a new mom? They complain that it got cold on your 30 minute drive to their home. Don’t cook a meal for a new mom? They complain that you aren’t a servant.
Enough with the examples – maybe it’s that way in your world, too.
And eventually, you may start entertaining giving up on trying to be helpful. After all, will you ever win?
In the business world, they say success is clearly defining expectations and then exceeding those expectations. In the ministry world, some people come to church expecting us to be God. Um….. not sure I’m going to win that one!
What to do?
I’ve been reading a great book called Enemies of the Heart. One of the enemies kind of took me by surprise. Andy Stanley’s definition of guilt unlocked something for me. I think maybe – for me – from a different angle than he intended… but an incredibly helpful one!
“Guilt is the result of having done something we perceive as wrong.”
The way he worded his sentence unlocked a helpful realization for me: After enough assumptions over the years about my heart, my motives, my intentions, and my actions… after enough times of feeling unprotected, unsupported, and/or caught off guard by those characterizations… after enough times of giving more than my all, yet it being misinterpreted… Andy’s sentence unlocked for me that I actually walk around feeling guilty.
But weirdly not for anything I’ve actually done wrong. Not for something *I* perceive as wrong. Instead, I feel guilty knowing that someone will come up with a perception about my action as wrong.
How crazy is that?
It’s happened so often that I simply expect that some perception is going to be presumed of me. I’m going to be pressed to own a motive that wasn’t actually there. My action almost certainly will be misinterpreted. And I wonder how I should do things differently so it’s not.
Uggghh. What a prison.
Don’t get me wrong – a passing thought or occasional evaluation can be helpful! And certainly it is my responsibility to set my boundaries in misassumption situations… and I think by God’s grace I’m getting better at that! That’s totally an aspect worth talking about more in a later post.
But for today, a reminder is helpful. Misperceptions aren’t just, “Well, that’s my thought. It’s my opinion. It’s just my take on a situation.” Misperceptions are characterizations of your fellow teammate in the Lord. Misassumptions affect the support of the relationship. They affect the trust of the relationship. They affect the psyche of your friend. They can affect their self-perception and can lead them to question their heart and motive. They are distracting… draining… and at times, even debilitating.
Yes, we each need to take responsibility to be healthy. No, we can’t blame our unhealthiness or negative thoughts on another person. But why create the distraction? Why turn someone’s attention from building God’s kingdom to devoting their energy, thought and prayer life to battling your inaccurate perceptions? Enough times of misperceptions and misassumptions – oh, they’re sneaky! They can sneak their way into debilitating a person’s effectiveness for the Lord. They may wear them out, ultimately affecting their desire to serve for the kingdom and thus their actual impact for God’s kingdom. Yikes.
By the way, ‘enough’ times can vary hugely. ‘Enough’ times for one precious person I know was once. It quashed her and threatened to derail her unfolding ministry.
Ughhh. That’s certainly not something we want to be a part of!
So what do to? Lovingly suggest different actions? That may be appropriate. Yet we must remember that beautiful motives may lead to an unpreferred action. We must be careful in the process: Mischaracterizing a person’s intent can have a detrimental impact for the kingdom – and that’s a gift we don’t want to give!
What if you’ve been given this unwanted gift? Or perhaps more fairly, I should say, what if you – like me – have taken an unwanted gift? What if you – like me – have unwittingly allowed it to affect you?
That answer is long, but this is what the Lord is doing in me lately. He’s had me in 1 John, where He’s quashing this new understanding of perception of guilt:
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. ~ 1 John 1:5
Do you love that? God is light. In God, there is NO darkness AT ALL!
I can live freely fully in light! Feel the freedom to be who I am. Be free to be who I am. Be free to be me.
That’s what I wrote about in my journal a few days ago. And this is what I wrote today:
Lord, I pray you’d help me stay volleyball-settin’ light. I pray you’d lift the guilt I feel as I wonder if I’ve done something wrong. I pray I’d have the freedom, Lord, to be!
I am so impacted by perceptions that I walk around feeling guilty. May I quit perceiving that I’ve done something wrong, Lord. And may I be free! I welcome your conviction of sin – and I guard against others’ misassumptions. For your glory and your kingdom, O Lord.
Today’s picture – along with a fun tutorial on how to make it: www.webdesignerwall.com