Finding the courage to ask tough questions

When I am around you, how do you feel?
A speaker posed that question once at a meeting I was attending. It really made me think. How do others feel when I am around them? Of course, it’s a question that can be difficult to ask – because often the answer is difficult to digest! If you were to ask that question to someone who promised to be totally honest, and you were truly willing to listen, the answer could be life-changing.
After the meeting where the speaker presented that question, I immediately wanted to ask that question to a few key people in my life. I got mixed responses, and some were surprising. The answers covered a wide range. Responses included happy, intimidated, good, calm, comfortable and stressed.
Not surprisingly, I was pleased with the positive responses and bothered by the negative responses. I wondered why someone would feel intimidated by me. Was I discouraging or judgmental toward them? Was I coming across as prideful when I interacted with them?
This exercise made me think a lot about how I was treating the people God has put in my life, and, in particular, the people I spend a lot of time with. Even though some of the answers were tough to digest, it gave me a lot of food for thought. I was thankful I had asked the hard questions. It gave me a chance to change, to grow.

Self-examination
Throughout Scripture we are encouraged to examine ourselves. In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11 and verse 31, the Apostle Paul tells us to judge ourselves, or to thoroughly search and explore ourselves so that we may correct what is wrong and prevent divine judgment. As I took a long inward look at myself in light of the feedback I had received, I used examples from the Bible and the direction of the Holy Spirit as a standard to grade myself.
After I had thoroughly examined myself, contemplating each response both good and bad, I came to some conclusions. The person who felt stressed out around me was just a stressed out person. He was stretched in many areas, and although he felt that way around me, it probably wasn’t me making him feel that way. He felt that way regardless. I was relieved!
On the other hand, I did not come out so blameless when it came to the person who felt intimidated around me. Although it hadn’t been intentional, I really did need to use a gentler, more encouraging attitude around this individual. And because of the changes I made, my interactions with this person have become much more positive.

Letting go of pride
I remember how humbling it was to really examine myself and consider that there were indeed some areas of my life that needed change … areas that I had been quite satisfied with up until then. It was discontenting and a little humiliating to realize that some of the people who I was around every day were uncomfortable around me, and I was completely unaware of it. Once I let go of my pride and was humble enough to take the  constructive criticism, I started living a more free life, not ignoring the fact that I was imperfect and at times self-deceived.

Change is good
In Haggai 1:7 the Lord says, “Consider your ways!” In Hebrew, the word consider means to think of something, especially in regard to taking some action. Not just to think and then move on to the next best thing, but to take steps towards a positive change.
How terrible would it be if you asked someone how you made them feel, and when they responded negatively, you kept on doing the same thing? It’s one thing to belittle or demean someone in ignorance; it’s a whole different thing to do so knowingly.
We all desire to be better people. The hardest part is to be humble enough to accept criticism, truly taking it to heart and asking God to reveal the truth of the matter. Spiritual growth depends on our willingness to adapt and make necessary changes where God (oftentimes through other people) has revealed the need. Once we have examined ourselves and discerned the truth, it is imperative that we act. God wants us to grow more and more like Him every day. It’s our choice. How will you respond?

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