Learn to Say “Good Job” to Yourself

I have a friend who thought she was a terrible daughter. I watched her and listened to her, and I thought she was a great daughter. I had rarely seen someone so devoted to their mother. So, why did she think she was a terrible daughter? Because of the negative feedback of her mother when things didn’t turn out right.

What this woman had not learned to do was to see every gift she had given to her mother, every time she did her a favor, every time she listened to her, every sacrifice she had made and say, “good job” to herself.

We can easily let the negative feedback or lack of positive feedback keep us from viewing ourselves correctly and enjoying the encouragement of a job well done. That’s why we need to learn to see the good things that we do. We need to learn to say, “Good job, Wes” or “good job, whatever your name may be.” Continue reading “Learn to Say “Good Job” to Yourself”

Keeping Sane and Productive in an Insane World, Principle # 3: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others; Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday

A few years ago, I started lifting weights. I started making some progress. Then, I saw a friend on Facebook. He was at a body-building competition. The immediate thought that came into my head was, wow! I am pathetic.

As we engage in any endeavor, we will find a ton of people doing it better than us. For some reason, this can be discouraging. Maybe we feel bad for not starting earlier. Maybe we are basing too much of our self-esteem on our progress. Maybe we don’t like where we are, and this reinforces the contempt. Maybe we feel that others are looking down on us. There’s a lot of reasons. It’s easy to get discouraged.

Framework for Seeing Better
But most of these thoughts are simply unhelpful. That’s why I accepted a rule I heard elsewhere: “Don’t compare yourself to others; compare yourself to who you were yesterday.”

If we think a little more deeply, we can get encouragement from other people’s successes. We can also recognize the amount of work involved. Then, we can focus on the key question, are we moving forward? That’s the comparison of ourselves, where we were yesterday and where we are today.

Example # 1: Languages
Let me give a couple of examples. When we see other people doing things that take a lot skill, we can rest assured that they have been working at it for a long time. We can do the same. If we work at it, we can make progress.

But it will take a lot of work. One thing I am proud of is that I have learned to communicate well in Spanish. People say to me that I have a gift for languages. That may be true, but I also know that I have spent thousands and thousands of hours working on it.

But I also can get discouraged with my Spanish. Sometimes I meet a gringo who speaks Spanish better than I do. There are words I don’t know. There are times I get lost. Seeing that other people can do better and getting discouraged is not going to help me. I just have to keep learning. I can understand Spanish much better than I could six months ago. I know numerous words that I did not know six months ago. I have made progress. I can make progress in the future.

And that’s the better comparison. Am I making progress? If not, why not? Is my goal to get better? The progress may not be easy to see today, but I will see it tomorrow and in a week and in a month.

Example # 2: Friendships
Let me give one more example from a different sphere of life: relationships. When you see someone you like connect really well with someone else, you can feel like you are on the outside. It may even make you feel lonely because you don’t have a relationship like that.

So, let’s apply what I just said. One way to view that relationship positively is this. See and believe that people can build strong connections and friendships. It really is possible. This should be an encouragement.

Second, recognize that behind this very close relationship lies a great deal of time and work. They have experienced many things together, and they have probably had some trials to walk through. A really strong relationship is based on connecting in a hundred different ways over thousands and thousands of hours.

Third, are you doing the sorts of things that will help you connect in this way? Are you building some relationships like that? Are you on track to build some strong relationships? If not, then what could you do to make that happen?

If you are making progress on this, then you should be encouraged. If you are not, you can make adjustments. That’s the opportunity you have.

Our immediate emotional reactions to others’ successes in areas we want to be successful in is generally not that helpful. By thinking just a bit differently about these things, we can avoid some of the common discouragements we face and set ourselves up for the long haul of building skills, character, and relationships. Wherever we are, we are. Are we moving forward? That is the question. Better not to compare ourselves to others. Better to compare ourselves to where we were yesterday.

Fulfilling Our Created Purpose in Everyday Life

God is not just for Sunday mornings, church or Bible reading. Life with God is an all day, every day affair. But how do we learn to see God’s presence in every day life?

We go back to creation. We see that God created culture and work life as the way in which Adam and Eve would live for him in this world. Understanding that, we can see our own work and play as glorifying to God.

In his magnificent poem, Paradise Lost, John Milton imagines how Adam might have seen the life of working, sleeping, and eating in light of His created purpose to live for God every moment. With a little imagination, we can apply this poem to our own eating, sleeping, and working. Here is a section from Book 4 of Paradise Lost. Here Adam describes the work they have to do and all the pleasures they can experience, noting that God’s one prohibition is not hard at all and surrounded by so many good things.

Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,
Dearer thy self then all; needs must the Power
That made us, and for us this ample World
Be infinitely good, and of his good
As liberal and free as infinite, [ 415 ] Continue reading “Fulfilling Our Created Purpose in Everyday Life”

How to Grow — Working on What Matters

The Preacher asked, “For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12).

It is a question that we should ask ourselves again and again. What is good, and what is to be done? What will make the most impact? In terms of growth, what should we concentrate on? There are so many things that could take our attention. What really matters?

In my first post on growth, I suggested that God created us to do primarily four things: live in relationship with Him and other human beings; do significant things that bless ourselves and others and bring glory to Him; and to enjoy His glory as reflected in creation.

These are four priorities that give us a framework for thinking about how to work on what matters most, the things that will be most beneficial for our growth, for our joy and peace, and for impact on the world. I will explain what each of the four things are and then propose ideas for implementing them in your life.

Relationship with God
Our relationship with God consists first and foremost in learning to receive the love that He wants to give us. I discussed this at length in my last post, so I won’t dwell on it here except to say this: our relationship with God, like any other relationship, takes time to develop. We have to be deliberate in setting aside time for it, or our relationship with God will not deepen.

The more we receive from God, the more we will learn to love Him in return. This is the greatest commandment, and the ability to love flows out of faith.

In addition to faith and love, we need to learn obedience. Even though we enjoy a relationship with God, it is not a relationship of equals. He is the Lord. We are His servants. We need to deliberately be asking what the Lord would have us to do and how we are to apply His commands and then do what He says! This is how our relationship with our Lord grows and we learn to trust Him.

Relationship with People
We are made for relationships. It is not good for a person to be alone.

In the last post, I spoke of people as being a support for us. We need people like that. However, we are also created and made to be a blessing to other people. We are made to love, and, once the hindrances to love are removed (i.e., sinful ones, see post 3 on how to grow), love is completely natural. The second greatest command is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Who should we love? Anyone God brings into our lives. So, who are the people that God has put in our lives? Consider extended family, neighbors, co-workers, those who are in recreational organizations with us, those who go to the same places we do, and those in our church or other civic organizations. If we think about it, there are more opportunities for us to love than we tend to think.

How should we love? In my view, most of our problems in relationships come from seeking to make people more than they are. They are just people. People are good, and love is good. However, it’s easy to become too dependent on that love or a particular person’s love or a particular pattern of receiving love.

So, here is my advice on how to love: give what you want to give, accept what others want to give you, and let others give what they want to give. See love as a gift. If you feel you should give that gift, do so. Let others decide what they want to give. If they do not give the love you want, you have an everlasting fountain of love in what God gives, so you do not need to get upset. If they do give you love, accept it as a gift and evidence of the love that God has for you.

There are many more things that could be said about this, but this has consistently been the most helpful thought to me.

Work involves two things: the development of ourselves so we can work better and the doing of the work itself.

Development includes general health such as exercise, right eating, and proper rest. Development also involves things that generally help us become well-rounded people such as developing a variety of relationships, a liberal arts education, and experience in doing a variety of activities. Finally, it involves the specific development of our gifts and the skills needed to accomplish particular things, e.g., an electrician, a lawyer, a preacher.

There are two realms of works: creation and redemption. The works of creation include family, building up civilization, government, and anything conducive to human prosperity and dominion. The works of redemption involve the restoration of man to fellowship with God and a life that is in accord with what He has made us to be. This includes service in the church, counseling, sharing with others outside the church, Bible study, etc.

In determining what work we should do, we should ask three things. What are God’s commands? What are our opportunities? What are our gifts? For example, God commands us to provide for our families, and most us of need an influx of money in order to sustain our lives. So, this limits us in some extent in the types of work we can do. Most of us need to do something that someone will pay us to do.

We should always seek to do what is good and be better stewards of what God has given us. At the same time, we should recognize that all labor is valuable to God. God told humans to develop the earth after the fall and the works of creation are everywhere praised and recommended by God. At the same time, we all should also in some ways seek to contribute to God’s work of redemption.

Enjoyment of Creation
Often, this is viewed as a restorative act rather than a duty. It is a restorative act, but it is also a duty.

It is important for us to emphasize this because our natural tendency is to focus on the bad and let the good slip by. We focus on getting things done and do not take time to celebrate. Our fast paced life moves us from one thing to another. Our focus on phones keeps us looking down and missing the beauty that is all around us.

The Apostle Paul says, “God created [foods] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:3–5).

Thanksgiving is a duty. Thanksgiving involves seeing the good that is around us, taking it in, and giving God praise and thanks for all that He has made and all the good ways in which humans have used creation for good. Enjoying creation can include human works such as buildings, plays, or television shows.

It is important to note, though, that many of the good things that God has for us are the simple things that God has created–touching, feeling, seeing, and tasting the things He has made and enjoying the blessing of people in our lives.

Diagnostic Question
1. How do you take time to develop your relationship with God?
2. Do you ever ask of God, “What do you want me to do?” If you do, do you do it?
3. Who are some of the people in your life with whom you could connect with?
4. Are there people around you who could really use a contact from you?
5. Are there broken relationships that you need to work on?
6. What are your gifts?
7. What are the best opportunities you have to use your gifts?
8. What’s something you really enjoy that you haven’t done in a long time?
9. How are you doing at enjoying the good things around you? Do you take them in or mostly pass them by?
10. Do you take time to enjoy the people in your life?


This is part 6 of a 7 part series on how to grow. Read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.