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I'm the kind of person who constantly replays interactions I had yesterday, last month, or ten years ago. Sometimes it's an argument I had with someone, and sometimes it's a moment when I missed an opportunity to connect. I always think of the perfect thing to say after that moment has passed. And when I try to focus on not making that mistake again, I end up fumbling more because I'm so concerned about how people perceive me from the outside. I've always hated the feeling of acting like someone I'm not, but the fact I've learned is that who we are is not how we behave.
First, we have our identity in Jesus. That is who we are. Second, we have our natural personalities that are uniquely created and continue to develop through our experience. And third, we have the actions we choose in order to grow and impact others. We shouldn't try to put on a "persona" or do things that oppose the way we think. We also don't need to always go with whatever naturally comes to mind, even though that is easy with the people we're most comfortable around. We can be our authentic selves and focus on what we reflect in our relationships.
Think about not overthinking.
Well, that seems like a conundrum, doesn't it? If you want to go more in-depth on this topic, "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell is a great book about decisiveness and how to think about the things that matter. In the context of relationships, we need to think about our actions in a forward-moving way. When regret or fear creeps in, how can we purposefully recycle it into positive change? When we start to write fan-fiction in our heads about how someone might suddenly think the worst of us, we need to just say, "Stop." When it's all about how we "look," then we get more stuck in our bubble and are actually less aware of what we portray to others. We need to take time to consider what it is we are so afraid for someone to see. Am I worried about seeming selfish because my true concerns are selfish? Do I over-analyze the things I say because I'm insecure about my ability to impact a person I care about? Do I not even try because I don't want to overthink? The circle can go around forever. We need to confront how those thoughts affect us and separate them from how we affect others. Then, we can clear our minds to see our relationships from both sides.
Listen with more than your ears.
When we focus on how to get positive attention for our responses, we listen to comprehend rather than to care. With this attitude, we're proactive only when we think our attentiveness is expected. We all have certain people we spend more time with than anyone else. Whether it's a significant other, friends, or family, the people who know us best want us to know them too. They usually aren't looking for us to say something smooth; they're looking for someone to share their burdens and joys, just like we all are. They're looking for someone who will support them when they don't know they need support. And to be fully there, we have to do more than question and answer. To attain self-awareness, we need to practice selfless-awareness. What does that mean? To become selfless-aware, we must put ourselves in the shoes of the other person. When they walk through the door, where did they come from? What struggles or excitements might they have on their mind? What encouragement may help them, even if you don't know why? What words or actions would you want from you if you were them? How do your spiritual gifts compel you to work in this relationship? (If you don’t know what spiritual gifts are, check out this article)
We have the physical, emotional, and spiritual tools to give the type of love that changes lives. That love may require us to say or do something that doesn't earn us praise or affection, and sometimes it requires us to take a step back or shift relationships in ways that hurt. But when we tune into that love, we become more sure of where we stand even when we make mistakes. And in that process, we will start to let go of the little "awkward" behaviors that insert themselves in spaces that lack intention. When we strive to see others through the eyes of God, we are more aware of our purpose to reflect Him in our connections with the people we hold close.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.