“Your Ways.” These words are very personal for they are matters of the heart. People who know you will describe you by what they observe, your behavior.
Think about people you know, a few friends. How would you describe them? A Google search uncovers a long list of personality traits. People can be described in a positive way as motivated, considerate, enthusiastic, friendly, generous, flexible, and hardworking. Or in a less positive way as grumpy, fearful, apathetic, resentful, controlling, unappreciative, or envious.
No matter how someone might describe us we know much more for our outward appearance may not expose our heart. We can be smiling and receptive while critical thoughts mount in our mind. Yet more alarming, we often do not clearly see ourselves as we are. We have internal blind spots until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, showing us things about ourselves we do not even recognize.
I once waited in a doctor’s office for a long time, much longer than I should have waited. When I finally was ushered into the exam room, instead of apologies I was met with impatience and a condescending attitude. Deeply offended, I blinked back tears. As I left, I vowed never to return and spent the next few weeks trying to write a letter that properly chastised this man. Months later the Holy Spirit revealed a different way of responding in such situations. I had not chosen the way of empathy and understanding, but instead self-pity. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes this attitude as “a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.” Would you want to be described as someone who feels sorry for herself?
God had given me opportunity to practice His ways. But I was focused on how I had been wronged and missed a chance to be compassionate, kind, and patient. (Colossians 3:12)
Scripture tells us God is full of compassion (Psalm 116:5) and His compassion never fails (Lamentations 3:22). His kindness is demonstrated when He pulls us close and protects us (Psalm 17:8, 36:7, 61:4). The fact He is slow to anger reflects His patience. When we aren’t patient, we often desire revenge (I think of the letter I was trying to write, wording it in just the right way to show what the doctor lacked in “bedside manner.”)
Now instead of taking the path of self-pity when caught in a difficult encounter, I try to take my eyes off myself. What is the cause for the moodiness, agitation, impatience, aloofness, or hostility of the doctor, store clerk, plumber, mail carrier, delivery driver, or any other professional I encounter on their off day? Unless I ask, and the person is honest, I will not know for certain. But what I can know is that even if I am wronged, I can be proactive with compassion, kindness, and patience rather than take the path of self-pity or some other negative response.
Contemplate Your Ways:
**Are there any unflattering traits the Holy Spirit is trying to bring to your attention? As our teacher, He will reveal those blind spots from time to time.
**How are you able to use this new knowledge to align your behavior with God’s ways? What is the way of the Lord from which you strayed?