Warm and Fuzzy is Nice, But Sometimes I Need a Good Jolt
There are some things you don’t want to hear. They need to be said anyway. You probably already know some truths but don’t want to acknowledge them. It’s like having a mouthful of bitter medicine that you don’t want to swallow. Some truths are hard to talk about. Talk anyway.
Honesty is critical.
Honesty with yourself and honesty with others are necessary for personal growth. You want to know the truth. No one appreciates being lied to. Sugar-coating something, watering it down, and distraction are just other forms of dishonesty. Lies, distractions, and half-truths make things unclear. Unclear communication is unhelpful and very frustrating. The truth, told honestly and gently, is less painful than secrecy or insincerity. All relationships must have honest, open communication to thrive.
Warm and fuzzy are both nice but sometimes a good jolt is critical.
Encouragement and positive thoughts aren’t always the most helpful. Growing up, I was a pretty compliant child, so I didn’t require discipline very often. But when I did, wow! I needed it. It got my attention. It was effective. I will never forget the time my father and I were talking when he stopped abruptly and just looked at me. “What?” I asked. He paused for a moment. Then, shaking his head, he said, “Nancy, you have a habit of talking to people in a way that sounds like you’re talking down to them. That’s not a good thing.”
I was stunned. My father was never critical or harsh. For him to say that it had to be pretty important.
Forty years later, I still remember that. It stung. But I needed to hear it. My dad loved me enough to say it. I’m now thankful for the pain because the jolt woke me up. No one wants a constant stream of criticism, but there are times when you need to be aware of things. Neither my dad nor I will ever know how many times his correction saved me from saying something harsh, foolish, or mean. There’s no way to calculate the difference this made in my life and the lives of those around me. Pain can be a powerful teacher.
What about you?
Have you ever had a boss, co-worker or loved one tell you something that you needed to hear even though it stung just a bit? Maybe it hurt a lot? Did you also learn something about yourself that you needed to know? Ask yourself and be honest with the answer.
Having people in our lives that challenge us is critical.
If you’ve ever played sports, you know the value of a good coach. If you’re trying to improve your skills and if you want to win you need someone who barks at you when you mess up. It makes you renew your efforts, keeps you sharp and focused. It makes you a better player. Perhaps you’ve had a boss that really knew their stuff and, boy howdy, you’d better know it too! Successful parents, coaches, teachers, and bosses all have one thing in common. They push us to become the best version of ourselves. They encourage us to renew our efforts.
Renewal is essential.
Just as the Earth renews itself each Spring, personal renewal is also essential for people. Everyone needs to pause and recharge from time to time, especially following stressful periods in your life. During a recent season of spiritual renewal I prayed:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Then I sat and waited. And waited. Echoes from my childhood, “Go to your room and wait for me. Sit there and think about what you’ve done until I get there.” Sitting there in the quiet of my room, I was able to focus on what I’d done (or not done) to displease my dad. I hated the feeling of my him being upset with me. His goal was never to hurt me, but to prevent my being an annoying brat who would grow into a self-absorbed, obnoxious adult. He made me a better person.
Do your friends and family want to be around you?
Ask someone who knows you well what your ‘rough edges’ are. Take what they say to heart and set aside a season to improve yourself. Ask for help. Pray for help. Plan quiet time into your schedule and use that time wisely. To be the best ‘You’ you can be, you need seasons of renewal. You want a life with friends, family, and co-workers who enjoy being around you, right? You owe it to them and yourself to pause occasionally for redirection and renewal. These seasons are critical for personal growth.
What if you design your next vacation with all of this in mind?
Imagine a quiet cabin or tent. Or perhaps a stay-cation in your own, quiet house and familiar surroundings? Instead of running from one amusement to another, take a walk or a nature hike (no iTunes!). Just sit and listen to the birds while you enjoy your morning coffee. Fishing is a quiet activity. Go fishing with one or two close friends. Imagine a vacation with less noise, less media and fewer people. Plan that vacation and enjoy it.
Private, quiet moments are vital.
It’s usually during private, quiet moments when solutions and truths grab our attention. That’s why having a ‘quiet time’ each day offers so many benefits. It gives you a boost physically and spiritually. It gives you a chance to prioritize and process what’s currently going on in your life. Having a ‘quiet time’ lowers your stress levels, brings order to chaos, allows your mind to focus. These all increase your productivity and help renew your energy and sense of purpose. So schedule regular downtime for yourself. Stand and do yoga stretches or go for a brisk walk by yourself. Include sounds from nature if that helps you to clear your mind. Try ocean sounds, rain or thunderstorms, birdsong, trees rustling in the wind. Whatever relaxes you, have it playing quietly in the background.
Where and when does God find time alone with you?
Maybe it’s late at night after the rest of the family is in bed? Perhaps you’re an early riser who always has a quiet house to themselves in the morning. Are you one of the surprising number of folks who are regularly up for a few hours in the middle of the night? For me, it’s almost always when I’m by myself in the car. (I rarely listen to the radio.) I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been driving down the road, rolling a situation over in my mind, and then an idea or solution will come to me. I voice record those clear thoughts and come back to them when I get pen and paper or computer.
Don’t be afraid of tears!
When I was caring for my parents in their last years, there were some heartbreaking challenges. Pain gets your attention, doesn’t it? There were very few car rides in that season of my life where I wasn’t in tears. I want to share what I learned about tears and crying. If pain sometimes reduces you to tears, don’t fight it. Don’t be afraid of tears! Try to remember that from the moment you are born, tears are a sign of life and health. Tears are healing. However, if you happen to be driving, I would as that you please pull over, (voice of experience). Don’t try to distract yourself with media or conversation. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and let the messages that come work on your heart.
Stay open to honesty.
Don’t close your eyes, ears, and heart. Allow God and others the liberty of being honest with you. Brace yourself for a few jolts and imagine the impact this will have as you ‘level up’ your relationships. Picture the difference it will make when you to take time every day to just…be…still. Plan a season of renewal and commit to it. Look for those private moments where your mind can ‘soak up’, and let your heart ‘soak in’. Become the best “You” you’ve ever imagined. Perhaps even better than you’ve imagined!
You’ll find me over in the corner singing the song I learned in preschool Bible class:
He’s still working’ on me
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
Heaven and Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still working’ on me.
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