Five Things That Once Drove Me Crazy, But I Am Learning to Let Go of Now
The end of the year is a great time for reflecting on how we have grown or matured over the previous year. We often will take inventory of who or what is most important to us and in our lives and priorities will change. When these new things become a priority for us, what we used obsess over no longer has the same influence in our lives. Taking hold of new things often means letting go of the old things and ways
One sign of personal growth is learning what to let go of regularly. This morning I began reflecting on how I am learning to accept people and situations for who or what they are and not let them drive me crazy. As a result, I enjoy these people more now because of who they are — not because of who they used to be or who I want them to be.
Here is a list of people, situations and things I am learning to accept – and even appreciate — as they are rather than allowing them to drive me crazy. As you can imagine, these things always involve people.
- Losing contact with people who were once very dear to me
In early December I pull out our Christmas card list and inevitably there is someone on the list that I have not interacted with since last Christmas. We question do we still send them a card and we feel guilty that we didn’t initiate contact over the past year. The sad unintended consequence is a sort relational “de-cluttering” and the accompanying guilt! I am learning, however, that the guilt may be largely unwarranted.
There are two types of friends — seasonal friends and lifelong friends. Seasonal friends are an important part of our lives, but when that season ends (junior high, college, a hobby in which no longer participate, an addictive habit, a job, etc.) the friendship naturally changes. It isn’t that you ended the friendship, but rather you (or they) are simply no longer a part of the environment that initially brought you together.
Better to let go of seasonal friends than to cling to a season of life that is over or even where you are possibly an unwelcome distraction in the life of a friend who has moved on. Seasonal friends may become lifelong friends. However, those lifelong friends that are with you through every season are rare. They are enormously special, so treasure them dearly. But don’t put lifelong expectations on your seasonal friends.
- Immaturity among people that “should know better”
Maturity is easy to recognize, but hard to define. One aspect of maturity is the ongoing realization that we are not the center of the universe. Another aspect of maturity is reflecting and being honest with ourselves about our personal shortcomings. I have a formula for maturity. STUPID DECISION + PAIN OF THAT DECISION + TIME REFLECTING ON HOW THAT DECISION IMPACTED OTHERS = MATURITY.
In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul writes, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (emphasis mine)
To explain this verse, Bryan Loritts says simply, “expect immaturity.” Paul worked to present people mature, because people can be immature. If you have ever been in a middle school, you know we all go through, and grow through, seasons of immaturity. I have suffered the consequences of my own immaturity more than I have suffered from the consequences of the immaturity of others. Maturity is a process, and because we are all a work in process, don’t be surprised by the immaturity of others.
- People that I have never been able to please
It is never wise to measure our success by the standards of others. There is no objective standard to define a successful person. Letting go of continually trying to please someone — who seems to never approve of or be pleased with us — is easier said than done. In your life, you will always be disappointing someone. If you live your life only for your own pleasure and to advance yourself at the expense of others, you will (rightly) be called a narcissistic. If you live your life for the glory of God and the benefit of others, you may be called self-righteous and judgmental. Someone is always going to disapprove of your life choices. So make sure that you are living in a way that honors God and is a blessing to the people who love and need you the most. As Christ-followers, we are commanded to love God with all that we are (heart, soul, mind and strength) and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are never called or expected to please everyone.
- Loved ones who seem to never get along with others
Some personality types (not cultures) will simply never get along. I am not responsible (or do I have the ability for that matter) to make Mr. Know-it-All stop being Mr. Know-it-All so that Mrs. Can’t-Let-Anything-Go can get along with Mr. Know-it-All. Oil and water don’t mix no matter how much I stir. I have learned two valuable lessons trying to reconcile people. One, reconciliation will never happen unless both parties are committed to the reconciliation for the benefit of the other party. And, two the aggression that one party feels toward the other will often be re-directed to the reconciler, labeling him/her as the cause of the conflict — not their own unrepentant hearts.
- Loved ones who cannot get their lives together
I have been either an inner-city school teacher or a pastor for the majority of my adult life. I have invested my life in trying to make the lives of other people better. The danger with investing in people is that we expect them to perform like financial investments. We invest and expect a return on that investment. We can make these demands of Wall Street, but it does not always work well on my street. In fact, don’t investment brokers say, “past performance is no indicator of future success?” The life-choices of others are not a reflection of our investment in their lives. I have learned, often the hard way, that I can never be more invested in the success of others than they are willing to invest in themselves.
I want to be clear, I am not letting go of people. I am just letting go of the guilt that comes with not being able to preserve or repair some relationships.
These are a few of the things I am trying to let go of in order to move forward. I am eager to hear from you, my lifelong and seasonal friends. What are some things that used to drive you crazy, but you are learning to let go of now?