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HOW TO KILL WITH GOOD INTENTIONS (published in The Tribune 1/5/13)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:18 PM by Fccea Webmaster
A farm boy got a white football for Christmas. He played with it awhile and then accidentally kicked it over into the neighbor's yard. The old rooster ran out, looked at it, and called the hens to see it. "Now look here," the rooster said, "I don't want you girls to think I'm complaining, but I just want you to see what they are doing next door."


Want to kill a relationship? Try a comment like that and you will kill it all right.

It really doesn't matter whether it's a spouse, a child, a fellow-worker or a friend. No one wants to be reminded of how they come up short as compared to someone else. It's a motivational technique guaranteed to backfire every time.

That doesn't mean that we don't all have room for improvement. We do. But it will not happen by someone demonstrating our shortcomings as compared to someone else.

The Bible recognizes this technique as a problem. Paul says of some of his opponents in II Cor. 10:12, "Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding."

Exactly what understanding do we lack when we set about comparing people with each other for the purpose of motivating them? We fail to understand that God has made every one of us as a unique individual. Like snowflakes, there are no two alike, so trying to change behavior through comparisons is a no-win game.

The Bible is clear that there is a definitive general purpose for every life. In Isaiah 43:7 God speaks clearly to the fact that every human being is "formed and made" by Him and "created for my glory." Anything less is a wasted life.

But there is great diversity in the manner in the giftedness of our creation and the intended manner of demonstrating God's glory.

David understood this when he wrote in Psa. 139: 15-16, "My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

There is a unique, divine plan for each of us, and we will not encourage our children to find theirs by urging them to be like their older siblings. Nor will we motivate our spouse toward their unique purpose by demanding compliance with some other model, real or imagined. We need rather to be affirming their uniqueness.

Comparisons are devastating. Ask Don Stoudt. He took over as quarterback for the Pittsburg Steelers when Terry Bradshaw, who had won four Super Bowls, retired in 1983. During his first year, Stoudt threw almost twice as many interceptions as touchdowns and was booed relentlessly at Three Rivers Stadium. Someone said of his reception, "You'd have thought he'd canceled Christmas." Stoudt's only defense was a dark sense of humor. He said, "I tried to commit suicide -- but the bullet got intercepted."

Let's not drive friends and relatives to the brink of desperation through direct or implied comparisons. How much better to help them find the unique relationship with God and role in life that their Creator intends for them.

I like how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 1:11-12, "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you -- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." We build people up by encouraging their diverse abilities, not demanding conformance.

How are we doing on this? We might ask, do people prefer to see us coming, or going?!

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault
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