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About this series
Relationships Under Pressure
Keeping it Together When the World's Falling Apart
In this series, Chip takes a biblical look at some of the many reasons why even our best and closest relationships suffer hard times. He addresses topics like why we fight with those we love, why we all struggle with anger, how to resolve inevitable conflict, that the only person I can genuinely control is me, and finally, that the art of speaking the truth in love is a gift - and goes a long way toward building great relationships that last. This series will help you understand the beauty of grace in the context of a world full of selfish, broken, petty people - including you! So, join Chip and get on the solution side of keeping it together when the world is falling apart.More from this series
We are in a little series on relationships and I would like to suggest that, I’m going to talk about a disease that I call “chronic-relatatitis.”
I made up this word myself. It’s “chronic-relatatitis.” This is the last principle about the life lessons that I have learned about relationships. And there are a lot of great things I have learned and I’ve been a Christian a little over thirty years and I didn’t learn much the first couple years, because I wasn’t in the Bible regularly and I didn’t do any of the things that all good Christians told me to do. And then I kept hitting the wall and decided, I think I’m going to get in the Scriptures and I think I’m going to join a small group. And I began to grow.
And so, for the last thirty-two out of the last thirty-four years, of all the things I have learned shifts in current relationshipsthe most difficult things to deal with in any relationship when someone perpetually acts or treats you in a way that either causes inward concern or outward conflict.
Okay? That’s what I mean by “chronic relatatitis.” Someone, usually they are in your network. They can actually be a clerk, if they’re really a jerk. Or she is really a jerk and you happen to buy coffee at the same place and they treat you disrespectfully and are super negative every, single time.
It’s not like you have to deal with them too much, but I’m talking about those people in your relational network who act in a way or treat you in a way that either causes you constant concern for fear and concern about them or the impact, or it causes constant conflict. And let me give you – I just gave a few illustrations.
Okay? You’re married to a husband who is not spiritually sensitive, has no desire for God, no desire for the Bible, and no desire for church and he sits on the recliner Sunday morning with a Coors Light, watching NFL football as you get the kids and walk out the door to church and you are concerned about his soul and you’re concerned about his own life and you’re concerned about the impact on your kids.
And you have nagged and you have tried and you have left the Bible open and you have left the radio on the right station in the car and for the last ten years, no change. That’s what I call “chronic relatatitis.”
Or you’re the husband and you are married to a wife who is constantly critical, makes jokes, has these little put-downs in public, when you go out with people at a dinner or different times like this, it’s always in the form of joking and jabs, but she jabs about your looks, she jabs about your work, she jabs about your family, she jabs about your background and everyone thinks it’s funny, but you don’t. And you have talked to her about it. And you have told her about how it makes you feel. And for some reason, she doesn’t get it.
Or it’s the in-laws who are negative and critical with every visit, every letter, every phone call. When they visit, what you know is: anything that is not right in the house, anything that is not right with your parenting, anything that is not right with anything, you’re going to hear about it. And they do it in this syrupy, like, “We really care” attitude, that they really want to help you and you know underneath of it is the same old junk you have had for the last seventeen years.
And you get a letter from them or a phone call from them. And even when they – even when they remotely do things that are positive, there’s always this little inward barb on the inside that pokes about how: “You know what? If you were a better father, if you were a better mother, if you would watch your house better, you know what? You need to keep that clean because if you don’t keep that clean, you know what? This could happen. When was the last time you got your chimney cleaned out? Because the creosote down inside. Kids, I read something in the paper the other day that talked about kids that eat those kinds of vitamins. There’s artificial coloring in it,” and you just want to go: [makes wringing neck noise]. And it’s just chronic.
Or the child who is constantly disrespectful, even after multiple disciplines. You have grounded them. Earlier, when they were younger, you spanked them. You did – they just came out of the womb disrespectful, the seemed to be disrespectful, they are disrespectful, you think they will always be disrespectful. And you have multiple conversations with them, multiple conversations with your mate and you just feel like – it’s just chronic. What do you do?
Or the boss, employee, or fellow worker that constantly has a negative attitude, is sarcastic and cynical, and “nothing is ever right” perspective. It doesn’t matter if you just broke through the next goals, if you got a promotion, if everyone has worked as a team. This person has an attitude and a lens that no matter what happens is: life is bad, life – it stinks. They can take the most positive situation and they are spin masters. They can see the downside of everything.
And all you know is that every time you’re with them you have these little knots in your stomach or every time you’re around them, you just think thoughts like, Can’t they ever say or be positive? There is always just the sarcasm, the cynicism, even when something good happens they can figure a way to say, “Well, so-and-so’s motives probably weren’t right and it probably is not really true and, yeah, it’s better now, but it will probably be just like it always was three weeks from now.” And you live with these people.
And so, before we go on, I would like you, because your faces are telling me you’re beginning to really track with me, I would like you to think of: who is that person or persons in your life, in your relational network that you would say you are experiencing “chronic relatatitis?”
In other words, if there is one person that would come to your mind right now and you could say, Oh, God, give me a magic pill and when they look the other way, I could give them this magic pill and it would change…whatever it is, who would they be?
They would start being positive, they would start being sensitive, they would be open to God, they would begin to communicate, they would – whatever it is – who in your relational network: family, in-laws, fellow workers, neighbor is just someone that if they would change…
You have talked to them, you have prayed about it, you have had the heart-to-heart, or you have never had the heart-to-heart because one of the issues is they have anger management issues and they blow up and so you have decided: “You know what? I have tried that twice and I’m not going to go there again.”
But if that would change, who is that person that you would really like to see really change? And if they changed, I don’t think this is bad, but down deep in your heart you would say, That would be so nice for me. My world, my life, my family, my family, my work environment – it would be so much better if so-and-so would change either this behavior or this action or how they treat me or someone I love. If that would change, then my relational world would be a lot better. Have you got that person in your mind? It usually doesn’t take very long.
And now I want to give you principle number eight and like always, I’ll give you a principle, a passage, and a practice.
And the principle I have is: The only person I can change is me. The only person I can change is me. I can try nagging, I can try manipulation, I can try threats, I can try yelling, I can try the silent treatment, I can try passive-aggressively paybacking in very subtle, Christian-type ways to execute vengeance.
But when all of that doesn’t work, what I have learned is when I am in a relational situation that the reality of that relationship either causes me deep concern or ongoing conflict, the biggest lesson I have learned is the only person I can change is me.
And if you would open your Bibles to Luke chapter 6, I want to develop something out of a little bit of an obscure text, because you’re going to say to yourself, How does this passage have to do with that principle?
Luke chapter 6, it says, in fact, I put in the passage on your notes, it says, “Give, and it will be given unto you. They will pour it out in your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Give, and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. The idea is: as I give to other people, in the same measure – and the idea of a measure is like if I gave a cupful, I’d get a cupful back. If I gave a gallon-full, I’d get a gallon-full back. If I gave a fifty-five gallon away, I’d get a fifty-five gallon. Whatever measure I give out to others, He says it will come back to you.
And then He is using a farmer’s or agricultural metaphor here because if you want to get more grain and more something, the idea, it’s: shake down; running over. It’s the idea that if you shake something, you can keep making more room to put more in. So, it’s the idea of abundance.
Give to other people and you’ll get back good measure, not just – but shaken down, running over, in abundance, back into your lap.
The relational application I want to make is that whatever you most need in a relationship, the thing you most want from the relationship but are not receiving, give it away. This is so – this is the ultimate counter-intuitive, opposite way. We have a tit-for-tat mentality. “I’ll be kind to you if you’ll be kind to me and I’m waiting for you to be kind to me so I could be kind to you.” “I will respect you when you respect me.” “I will do for you, once you do for me.”
And what I’m saying is when you hit “chronic relatatitis,” and you have tried all the different ways to change this person and he is still on the recliner, and she is still dissing you in public, and that kid is still disrespectful, and that fellow employee or boss - whatever - is still making you nuts and nothing is changing – give them whatever you really want to receive from them.
I’ll give you a list and some practical ways of what I am talking about. If you are in a relationship where you want more time from the person, give them time. Give them time. If you want more attention from someone, maybe it’s in a marriage relationship, give them attention. If you need more affection in a relationship, ask yourself: What in this friendship, in this marriage, or in my relationship with my father or mother or one of my kids – what does affection look like to them? And if what it is is, My dad or mom has never said, “I love you.” My kids, whatever they are going through this stage and they are not very affectionate. My mate is not nearly as affectionate as I would like them to be – give it away. Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken over.
If you want someone to listen to you, you don’t feel like you’re really being heard, give that away. Start listening to them in new ways. Start asking the second and third and fourth penetrating question instead of saying, “You never listen to me. See? You interrupted me again. See? You…” Not that any of you have ever done that.
If you want to be understood, take a week and say, “I am going to be a student of this person and I want to understand them.” Instead of expecting one of them to understand me. If you want someone to be more sensitive, be more sensitive to them. If you want to be comforted by a person, comfort them. If you want them to be kinder, if you want them to be more thoughtful and give you gifts to indicate that, because that’s part of your love language and you feel like that happened in the early days when you were married or your parents used to be sensitive in some of those areas – then give them gifts.
In other words, whatever you need most in a relationship, give it away. Give and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken, running over back into your lap.
Now, I can, your faces are looking at me – this is really wonderful. Your faces are looking at me like, You don’t get it. You obviously don’t know the person that came to my mind or you wouldn’t say something like this because that’s not fair! In fact, the real issue is when I look at who is giving in this relationship, this is a 90/10er. I’m already giving ninety percent and I get ten back. And I get ten back on not a good day, a good week. I get ten back on a good year. And so, that’s not fair.
And what I want to say is: you are right. It’s not fair; it’s supernatural. The other thing I want to do is ask you now in your Bibles to turn back and let me give you a little context. Where did this verse come from? Jesus, in the opening of Luke, has done two things that seem outrageous. He has violated the Sabbath two different times: eating one time, and then after that He heals a man.
And then after that, He goes up onto a mountain and He calls the disciples to Himself and then He descends down and He is going to give the Sermon on the Mount and He comes to a level place and there’s a great multitude and there are His disciples and all these people and He begins to teach and He begins to heal and He begins to do all the things to meet the needs of other people. And then He gives that classic beginning of that message that we know: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst.”
And He gives those classic Beatitudes. But when He gets done with those, then picking it up at verse 27, He says, “But I say to you who hear,” notice, “I say to you who hear.” I am talking to those of you; I just gave a sermon. I gave it with My disciples here and all this multitude, “but I say to you who hear.” Translation: if you get it. If you really understand what I was trying to say.
“But I say to those of you who hear: Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you, and pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek,” literally, the right cheek, “offer him the left. And whoever takes away your coat, don’t withhold your shirt from him as well. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way.”
And can you imagine? Those are great Jesus words, right? Those are – they put them on plaques in Christian bookstores and they sell like hotcakes. Can you imagine being in that crowd for the first time and having a good, developed sense of justice like we all have and hearing about how blessed you can be if you realize your need, if you hunger for God, if you long to be the man or woman, and you want to follow Him?
And then He says, “Now, by the way, if you understood what I just said about the supernatural life with Me, then bless those who persecute you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The picture isn’t just of pacifism.
Matthew 5, He talks about, “If someone hits you on the left cheek,” and most of us are right handed. And so, basically, this is, Vicki, be careful here. This is Vicki’s left – or – right cheek it says. And so, with my right hand, I have a hard time hitting her. So, really, this is more of I am using the back of my hand. I am disrespecting the person. I am really dissing them. And I am saying, “What you think and who you are…” And He is saying, “You know what? Don’t allow yourself to get pulled into…” instead of, so what do they do? You just turn and give them the other cheek.
This passage doesn’t teach that there’s never a time to defend yourself in light of all the rest of the Bible.
But what it is capturing is: giving the very opposite of what the person deserves. Isn’t that the thing that we can say from all of these? You give the very opposite of what the person deserves.
And this is Jesus’ relational model. But then, notice He goes on, because that part of us that is deep inside that says, This isn’t fair, He goes on to say, picking it up in verse 32, “And if you love those who love you, what credit is that? For even sinners love those who love them.” Verse 33, “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that? For even sinners do the same thing. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive credit, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.”
In other words, when you’re just dishing out what other people dish to you, or when you’re playing the tit-for-tat game, you’re just part of the human race. But that’s not a follower of Jesus. That’s not a supernatural response. That’s not how relationships work.
And then He goes on to say, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend and expect nothing in return,” and notice here is where, now, the faith kicks in. Your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to” – whom? “to the ungrateful and evil men.”
We are never more like God and we are never more like His Son, Jesus, than when we give people what they don’t deserve. He says that phrase, “You’ll be sons of the Most High.” In other words, people will recognize. I’m with my kids and they act a certain way and, “Oh, you must be Ingram’s boy.” Or, they got all that blonde hair and they say, “Oh, this is one of Theresa’s kids.” Why? There is family resemblance.
You have family resemblance to God when you treat people in a way they don’t deserve.
When you treat them just the opposite; when you love your enemies.
And then notice He wants to explain how God is kind. He says, “Be merciful,” or literally the phrase is: become or show mercy, “just as your Father is merciful. And do not pass judgment, and you will not be judged. And do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.”
All of a sudden, God, see, I’m saying, you’re saying, “Hey, this is not fair. This is ‘chronic relatatitis’ and this person is a jerk at work and he won’t get off the couch and she’s not very affectionate and this kid has been disrespectful and they don’t deserve it,” on and on and on. And Jesus says, “Do you want to break the system?” Every relationship is a system. There is some sort of feedback relational loop that you develop with people and it’s a system. And you have a system going with them.
And most of us are waiting for this other person to change. “I want them to change.” And so we create ways that we think will help them change. Most of the ways are ineffective and negative.
Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, and nag, nag, and nag, nag, and nag, nag and nag and nag and nag.
Now, that doesn’t work at home and it doesn’t work at work. Or passive/aggressive. I’m going to figure out how to pay you back in subtle ways where it doesn’t come out, but you really pay and I execute vengeance. That’s what unresolved, passive/aggressive behavior does.
And Jesus said, “All those ways aren’t how you build relationships in the kingdom.” You are powerless to change other people. Boy, when you get that, your lightbulbs are going. You are powerless to change your wife, powerless to change your friends, powerless to change your husband, powerless to change your kids, powerless to change your in-laws, powerless to change your boss. You are powerless, in and of yourself, to change anybody.
The principle is: you can only change you. I can only change me. But when I get my – where is most of my focus in relationships? If my wife was just a little more of this or that, boy, that’d be a great marriage. If my husband was a little bit more this or that. If my kids were, if my boss were, if my fellow employees were. You know what? Even that person where I get coffee – if he or she was a little bit more this or that, my whole day would be a lot better. In fact, I’m tired of hearing that guy whine every time I walk in here.
You know what will change that? Not waiting for that person, but you changing. Give, and it will be given unto you. You need time? Give time. You need love? Give love. You need a friend? Be a friend. Give and it will be given unto you.
And then notice the dangers. He goes – the spiritual rational is: be merciful and don’t judge. Because a lot of that too is we don’t know what is going on inside of people, do we? Down deep, do we really know what’s going on inside of that clerk or what is really going on inside even your mate? Or that disrespectful kid?
See, we judge and come to conclusions and we assume our perspective is the perspective. I actually have a little 3x5 card because I am so bad at this. Especially if you have some spiritual gift in the area of discernment, then what you think is you can read people. I know what’s going on. I’m sitting down with my wife. I know exactly what she is thinking.
She actually has a phrase for that when I come out with that tone of voice that knows exactly what she is thinking. She looks at me in her quiet, lovely little blonde hair and steel blue eyes and says, “You can’t read my mind and you don’t know what I’m thinking. So, please don’t interrupt me and really listen to what I am actually saying.”
I know it’s a hard time seeing Theresa do that, believe me. She be sweet on the outside as we used to say growing up, but she is very strong on the inside. And I need that. Because, see, my tendency is to think my perspective is the perspective.
In fact, in major conflicts, I have learned a little rule. Major, major conflicts, whether they be at work or at home or with a neighbor or – and I realize, You know something? This could really go south. The implications are really, really bad on this one.
I start the conversation by saying, “Let’s see if we can’t get all the facts on the table. And what I’d like to do is share my perspective of the truth that is not to be confused with reality.” Okay? “I’m not saying that how I am seeing it is reality. What I am telling you is this is honestly how I see it and I want to get that on the table and I would like you to tell me how you really see it and then let’s see if we can put those together and I won’t assume that how I see it is the way it is. And would you just suspend judgment for just a little while and not assume that your perspective is the perspective?”
Because, otherwise, how do you…? The only response you can have, if your judgment, your condemnation, your evaluation is the way it is, then if the other person disagrees, the only thing you can do is become defensive. And what does that do? That takes the relationship farther and farther apart.
But the second objection is that, Chip, that all sounds really good. It’s very spiritual. I appreciate that. That probably works for you and Theresa. I hope you guys do well with that. But what you don’t really get, see, I have been at this a lot longer time. It’s her pride, it’s her insensitivity, and it’s her baggage. Look, we have actually been to counseling on this one! And we both agree it’s her issues.
Or it’s his passive/aggressive or angry outbursts. I’m the one in the family that, or in the in-laws – we walk with God, see? You don’t understand. You probably - you just – total misperception. You don’t understand. We are the spiritual people in this “chronic relatatitis” and they are the pagan, immature, not walking with God, arrogant, insensitive, got the big problems people. So I understand all this stuff about giving what they don’t deserve and I’ll try that just a little bit more but…
Okay, so just before you go there, see, what comes before the verse really has a lot to say about that verse. But you can’t stop there because what comes right after the verse often has just as much to say.
So, we are told to do this outrageous behavior of showing mercy, of loving our enemies, of giving with no expectation of return, of…
And if we give, by the way, did you notice this is a promise? This is from the lips of Jesus. This is a promise. This isn’t like a Chip-ism. This isn’t a principle that someone has developed from the Bible. From the very lips of Jesus, it’s a promise. “Give,” and by the way, did you notice it’s not a financial passage? Everyone uses this for finances because it applies. This is not a financial passage. This is a relational passage.
Jesus just talked to them about: “Blessed are, blessed are, blessed are, blessed are, blessed are,” and then He just talked about how to treat people in ways that they should never deserve and then He says, “Give, and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.”
Well, let’s just go one more verse or two or three or four and let’s look at verse 39 to see out of this radical promise He makes about relationships. He says, “And He also told them a parable.” Notice that little phrase, “and He also.”
Anytime the author, empowered by the Holy Spirit is connecting what He is saying now with what He just said, there’s a good probability that what He now has just said ties in to what He previously said.
And so, He also told them a parable. “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see,” notice, it’s not just that you have it, you don’t see it. “You do not see the log that is in your own eye. You hypocrite, first,” circle the word first in your Bible. This is what gets left out when this is taught.
“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Often, this is taught like, “Oh, never judge anyone. You should never evaluate anything. Oh, you have got issues of yourself. Who are you to speak into...?”
This doesn’t say you don’t speak into other people’s lives. This says just look at yourself first! Look at what your issues are, look at what you need to change, look at what God wants to say to you and then once you do that, okay, now you have a little clearer vision.
Out of kindness and love and, by the way, a sense of, Oh, wow, God – once I see what I have done and how insensitive I have been to you and other things I have done in my life. What do I want? Mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy, please don’t hold that against me. I’m really, really sorry, God, I’m sure, oh, please, please, please!
When you really get that, guess how you’re going to start treating other people: Oh, God, God, God, I want, I really don’t want to treat them like You treat me, but this seems really clear. If I don’t, I’m in big trouble. So, I want to give away mercy, treat people, and withhold what is justly due. And I want to extend grace because that’s what You have done. Because I saw the log and I thought they were arrogant until I looked in my heart. I thought they were insensitive. And they are in this relationship, but I have been insensitive to You. And I’ve got a disrespectful child, but, boy, Lord, I never really thought that my own childhood and my own attitude toward my parents could have any relationship to what I am producing.
And you see what He is saying? Deal with your own stuff first. And then notice He actually is going to tell us how to go about it. He says, “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor on the other hand a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its fruit, for men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from briar bushes.”
And His point is: whatever the roots are, whatever the genuine roots are, that’s going to come out in the fruit, in the behavior, in the actions. And then what He is saying is, so, you get the log out, you need to look at your own issues, look at the root of your own issues and you deal with that and then the kind of fruit that will come out in your life, now you’re the kind of person that can love and look in and help others.
And then just in case you’re thinking to yourself, Well, how can you really know the fruit in your own life? Look at verse 45. He just, out of the blue, after He talks about the fruit and trees and the parallels, “The good man, out of the good treasure,” literally, out of his treasury. It’s almost like there’s a treasury down in your heart. “The good man, out of the good treasury of his heart brings forth what is good. And the evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth what is evil. For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
And so what I realized is is that not only do I need to give what I want most in a relationship, but I am never more like God when I give people what they don’t deserve. And it’s not fair. It’s supernatural. But the other thing is the problem is not the other person. That’s my perception of the problem. I am not saying the other person doesn’t have significant problems. But what I am saying is, the problem and the relational system is I need to go first and say, God, what is it about how I respond?
By the way, the things that you’re most defensive about, the things that bug you the most, the things that just are your buttons, I just hate to tell you this, often those are the very things that you’re in violation of with other people.
Really arrogant people don’t like other arrogant people. Really insensitive people are really blown away by insensitive people. You understand what I’m saying?
Often, the very things that bug you about people, that might be one of those little indications that, in the root, down deep somewhere, behind all your defense mechanisms and all mine, maybe there’s something about this relationship God wants me to learn to look inside of my heart first.
And then you say, Well, how do you know what’s there? Start listening to your speech. My speech will reveal my heart. The tone of my words. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they words that give life or are they words that put down? Are they words that frame things? Are they words that say, “I’m the authority; I know what is best.”
See, you can be really arrogant and really subtle, semi-godly-type ways. But arrogance is just me being filled with me instead of living in humility before God and realizing God has a lot of people that He can speak through.
One of the greatest signs of humility is being teachable. Being willing to listen. Being willing to be reproved. Being willing to say, “I need to learn something,” even in an area where you feel like maybe you know quite a bit.
So, the only person I can change is me.
The passage is: Luke 6:38. And then here’s the practice that flows right out of the passage: Ask God what He wants to change in you rather than focusing on what needs to change in the other person and then go to work on it, by His grace.
Ask God, in this “chronic relatatitis,” and you can go back to that person that you’re thinking in your mind. Ask God, Okay, I know for sure what needs to change in that person. You identified that. But then you say, Okay, since it’s a system and the way I am going about changing it so far, it’s called “chronic relatatitis.” If it wasn’t chronic, it wouldn’t be ongoing hassle.
And it continually causes concerns or conflict and so it’s like, Okay, Lord, nagging, being passive/aggressive, yelling, anger outbursts, threatening – those haven’t worked. I think I’ll try it Your way. So, I think I am going to give first to them what I really want in the relationship. And then I am going to ask You to change me. I’m going to ask You to show me and then change me.
Because once one person changes, it changes the dynamic of the relationship. Now, by the way, this is not saying and I’m not guaranteeing that you give away kindness to someone who is insensitive and do it three weeks, don’t come back and say, “Hey, I gave away kindness for three weeks and it ain’t working.? You know what? It doesn’t mean necessarily that other person will change, although I will tell you, you will be amazed. You will be amazed that as you do that, it really happens.
The only person I can change is me. I’m powerless to change my mate, my boss, my rebellious friend, my co-worker. But when I change the system, it begins to change. And then what I have learned is is that as you do that, in a great majority of the times, God starts doing things. Down to little things!
I’ve got a little bagel shop next to where I buy coffee and the guy is just the most negative person in the whole world. He’s just – if it’s a sunny day, “Ah, I’ll probably get a sunburn.” It doesn’t matter! “Hey!” And I’ll walk in and say, “Wow! You’re pretty full today.” “Yeah, full today but we weren’t yesterday.” He’s just negative, negative, negative, negative, negative. And so, he bugs me.
And so, I thought, I don’t think I’m going to buy bagels here anymore. But he’s got great bagels. So, I decided not to go that route. So I just decided, You know what? All right. You little bagel man. And I’m on the warpath and I walk in and it is just, “I want to tell you something.” “What’s that?”
We’re always in a hurry. “Could you wait for just one second?” “Yeah.” “The last time I came in, that lady over there, she served me with such a great attitude and I just wanted to tell you.” “Well, that’s good, because most of them don’t do a very good job.” I said, “That may be true, but, boy, yesterday she did and I come here because of the way she treats me. And you know what? She must have an excellent boss to learn those kinds of attitudes. By the way, you know what? You go ahead and keep the change. Great to see you. I’ll see you later.”
And I got no response for a month. But I’m thinking, I’m going to win this battle. I’m going to win this battle! The last time I come in, and every time, and you know me. I’m playing this. I’m a nut, I just think, Okay, I’m going to give what I am not getting. I’m going to give what I am not getting.
The last time I went in there, I bought these sandwiches and I was in a hurry and I didn’t have time to figure out how I was going to bless this guy. And I was having my own issues that day. And he gives me this little card, if you punch it ten times, you get a free sandwich. It’s going to take me until New Year’s!
And so, but I decided rather than be negative I get this, I said, “Oh,” I said, “you know something?” I said, “Thank you very much, but I always lose these cards and I never use them. So, why don’t you just save it and give it to someone else?” And he puts it down and he goes, “What is your phone number?” I gave him my phone number. He says, “Don’t worry about the cards. Whenever you come in, you give me the phone number, it goes in the computer, it’ll automatically pop up, we’ll give you a free sandwich.”
And I said, “Oh, you don’t need to do that, man. It’s okay! But you have the best sandwiches and best bagels. I just like to come.” He said, “We like to really treat all of our customers well. I want to say thank you to you.” And I just – I walked out of there and I thought, It took a month. It took a month. And it’s always good to give an illustration on one of those trite kind of issues.
At the heart of all this, when someone is in a “chronic relatatitis” situation with you, your unconscious response is to start giving them evil for evil. And it says, “Don’t do that. Give good for evil.”
And then here’s the last line I’ll leave you with, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Respect what is right in the sight of all men, if possible. And just remember it’s not always possible. Those in-laws may never be positive. There may be aspects of very important relationships but you know what you can have? You can have peace and right now you don’t have that.
As far as is possible. You can say, God, I am giving, I am giving friendship. I am giving affection. I’m giving a listening ear. I’m giving understanding. Lord, I am pleasing to You. And you know this other person? They may respond, they may not respond, because You’re not going to overpower their will and I sure can’t change them.
Principle number eight: the only person I can change is me. So, “Give, and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together.”
The practice: ask God in this chronic relationship: How do You want to change me? And then say, Lord, I can’t do it. I need Your grace. And you just might find you’ll see some real shifts occur in relationships.