Eight Things You Can Do To Be A Better Human Being
It is my very nature to be self focused, self centered, and self aggrandizing. It is also yours. So here are eight things that can become a life-long project for you in the betterment of yourself. All of these things I wish I had known when I was becoming an adult, and earlier. But I did not know them, and so have many regrets. This need not be for you.
Yes, we must repent before God and rest in his forgiveness, and I doubt that you can do any of the things on this short list if Jesus is not in you, actively reshaping your heart. But that “repent” is not exactly what I’m talking about here, now. I am talking about being willing and ready to repent concerning people. Admit when you are wrong, have been wrong, behaved badly, or in any other way have given into your fleshy nature toward others. Ask forgiveness and then try to do better in the future. When someone points something out, like say a boss, a family member, a friend, or even a stranger, consider their words. Contemplate the question: “Why did they say that?” “Is that really true?” Ask those who love you to be honest, then allow them to actually be honest. They are your best resource for learning not-so-wonderful things about yourself that you don’t even realize are there.
People are going to be people. They are going to fail, make mistakes, and in many other ways hurt you just as you will do all of these same things too. There will come a time in your life when you will wish more than anything in this world that you had not said or done something in a moment of anger or weakness. You will understand in that time what it means to be forgiven by the one you have offended. Never forget that moment, and recall it when someone is genuinely sorry. Put things behind you. The older you get, or the worse the offense, the more difficult this will be. Ask God for help.
3. Check your motivation
Everything you set your hand to in this life will be the result of a motivation of some sort. There is no getting around it and that fact is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a bad thing when we are motivated by the praise of others, even when what we are doing is a good thing. You will avoid much embarrassment if you would spend your life working diligently at keeping your base motivations, that is the lust for praise and approval, in check. You may ask yourself, why am I doing this? Why am I saying this thing about myself if not to empress? Do I want to be seen doing this this or that thing? The answers will be telling.
4. Check your thinking
Your thoughts are indicators of your future doings. Control your thought life and you will be a long way down the road of controlling yourself, which in itself is a Herculean task.
Our thoughts toward others can also lead us astray. It is in your mind that you will first make your worst assumptions and judgments about the motivations of others. Many times, if you will stop and think about it, you will see that you are projecting onto someone else things that you know are true about yourself. And quite possibly you may be correct in your judgments. But all this means is that this is a fellow human-being being just that, a human being. Keep grace on hand.
We can also conjure up thoughts about future actions of others. We can become angry in our hearts toward someone for something that they haven’t even done, nor probably will ever do, and then get steaming mad about it. As I always say, think about what you are thinking about. Catch yourself when you do this and make yourself stop. Let someone at least actually offend before you become offended. This will save you a lot of heart ache.
It is in your thought life that will be the battlefield where your worst battles will be fought. Memorizing, and being familiar with scripture will be your best weapon in this fight.
5. Keep some perspective
We can always ask our self the question, “Compared to who?”. No matter what our circumstances, it is possible to think of others who have had it worse, or better. We are all one person in the midst of billions of people. Things can always get worse or better. We should be thankful for what we ought, work toward something better, and realize that no matter what happens we will end up one person in the midst of billions, some of which will be richer than you, poorer than you, more or less intelligent than you, more or less attractive than you, and so on. So don’t think too highly of yourself, nor too lowly. Try your best to realize the truth about yourself, and be content with that.
6. Ask questions, listen to the answers
I once read of a study on social interactions. In this study they put a group of people together with widely varying levels of income and education to study how well they all enjoyed each other’s company. One might assume that the wealthier and educated people would be drawn to “their own kind”. But the study showed that the one thing that determined whether the interaction between the people was enjoyable or not was how much each person had the opportunity to share in the conversation. This, I think, says quite a bit about human relationships. We generally have no need, as persons, to teach ourselves to speak but we are naturally deficient in listening. And when I say listening, I don’t mean biding your time until it is your turn to talk, but to listen intently. Determine to know more about others rather than desire others know about you.
7. Build others up
The best way to build someone up is to compliment them, and there are a lot of ways to compliment. I personally love complements. They can change my whole feeling about life in general, as well as my demeanor, even for a few days. This is true for everyone I believe. But I do not love to be patronized. The difference is in the sincerity of a complement. So train yourself first to admire things in others. Everyone has something to teach you about something. Therefore, as you ask questions, seek to learn new things. Your interest will be a compliment. Ask for advice from someone you respect in a given area. That will be a compliment also and will never be misinterpreted as patronizing. Never be stingy in pointing out things that you appreciate about others. If you look, I think you will find that all people have many things about them that deserve sincere compliments.
8. Avoid inferiority and superiority complexes
You will never be the smartest, best looking, richest, nicest and most talented person in any room that you will ever walk into for the rest of your life, and you need to know that. I think I can confidently make this claim as a true thing about you. But this is not true for just you, it will be true for all others in the room too. You will have your God-given strengths, and your God-given weaknesses. You should make it your business to have some sort of idea of what they are for you so you can become comfortable with them. You will find that your weaknesses are in some ways a gift to others. They allow others to shine in their strengths. How does it make you feel when I ask you how to spell a word? Both of you children are already better spellers than I am, and I know it brings you joy when I ask you to spell a word and you know how. That is just a microcosm of the dynamics that happen in relationships. Don’t be threatened if someone near to you is better than you in some way. Learn to be comfortable with who God has made you to be. Learn to be happy for others for the blessings that God has bestowed on them. Don’t ever be jealous.
These are just a few things that I am telling you now that I wish I had known when I was your age. All of them can be referenced to scripture verses, but there is one verse from 1st John that I would have you memorize:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:16-17)
As I stated earlier, and emphatically restate now, the picture painted by John in this passage is our natural way. It will be a life time battle waged in your mind that will overcome your own sinful selves. To the extent we are able to do that is the same extent to which we may perhaps be able to, not only please God, but to obey his commands of loving others and building up the Body of Christ, and be ever more Christ-like as we occupy this passing world.