Have you ever thought, “If people knew the real me they would act differently toward me?”
If other people understood the events, ideas, background, emotions, and details of my story, they would behave in an entirely different way. I must continually remind myself of this as a pastor when dealing with people. The words and actions I immediately see rarely tell the truth.
A person may come off as confident or even cocky because of deep-seated insecurities. They may appear mean and angry because they are suffering from deep emotional pain. People often try to mask their real feelings in ways that make them a greater target for misunderstanding.
Here are some of the things I want to know about people –
1. I want to know about your childhood. The events that happened to you as a child can have an immeasurable impact on you as an adult. What was your father like? How was your relationship with your parents? Is there a deeply hidden secret that you have not confronted? I believe to truly know a person well you need to understand their upbringing.
2. I want to know what you have been through in your life. This line of thinking is focused on the events that have happened to a person in their life. Did they lose a parent at a young age? What physical problems have they suffered? Many people have experienced a hard life that shaped them as an adult.
3. I want to know what decisions have impacted your life. This is focused on the things we have done to ourselves. This could range from the decisions that lead to an addiction to a sin that dominates someone’s life. Sometimes there have been poor relationship decisions which are often the result of number one on my list. Many people are carrying the burden of their own mistakes, and it molds their personality in unique ways.
4. I want to know what you are struggling with right now. Everyone is fighting their own private battle. They may be fighting at work or struggling at home, or they might just be at war with themselves. These difficulties lead to patterns of behavior that send out mixed signals to the people they encounter.
As a pastor, I encounter a broad spectrum of people. Most of them are struggling through a complex range of emotions coming from a variety of directions. Honestly, some of them it makes tough to love. It leads some of them to say and do things that appear unkind and often unchristian. People can act in ways that are hurting themselves as they leave a wake of pain in their path.
One of the hardest parts of following Jesus is believing the best in other people. It can be tough to see this beautiful person under all the dirt and mud. Then staying by their side long enough to help them get cleaned up. It requires us to offer grace and forgiveness by the truckload. It requires us to get our hands dirty as we dig through years of junk that has polluted people’s lives.
Each week God sends me one or two difficult people. My natural reaction is to get angry at them and walk away while shouting some generic instruction. My spiritual response pushes me a different direction. It forces me to ask tough questions and love people who at their worst.
The Bible says that is how God treats me. While I was still a sinner, he died for my sins. God offers me forgiveness and grace without measure. He sees the best in me and pushes me to live a better life. God treated me that way, and he wants me to do the same for others, and one huge step on this journey is trying to understand the people God brings in my life in a more profound and more meaningful way. Once we understand someone better, then we can behave in a way more fitting to their situation.
Maybe there is someone today that you need to spend some time getting to know better, perhaps it is one of the most difficult people in your life. This is where your faith meets actions.