#16 How People Grow
I learnt this in college from the likes of Henry Cloud: an author, clinical psychologist, leadership coach, corporate consultant and my involvement in Cru as a student. A book he wrote was passed around like water: Changes that Heal. It was an annoyingly good read.
How People Grow: Grace + Truth + Time = Growth
I think I heard this from several different people that mentored me in college and eventually read some of his books and flushed it out for myself. I have seen this truth rung out in the Bible and in real life in my own life or in other’s lives. I have also seen when someone seems like they aren’t growing or stuck. Usually there is a component missing. The first time I heard this explained it was when I was stuck. There were some things I was believing that were not true and they affected how I was acting.
Truth: Think of this as the Reality Check: What is actually true is not being believed, known or engaged with. Ignorance, blindness or lies keep people from seeing reality and growing. Classic. “I want to lose weight.” But they never look at what they are eating, consume loads of high calorie meals or changing anything in their (non existent) exercise routine.
Grace: “Unmerited favor.” They don’t deserve it but you are kind anyways. How many of you have had a boss who is “graceless?” It’s really hard to improve in an environment where you are always watching your back. The parent who is always demanding perfection often create children who don’t give grace to themselves or others. The children spend their lives trying to earn their parents love and then go out and make others miserable imposing the same expectations uncontrolled on the world around them. Perfectionists. People need to experience grace as well as a reality check in order to change. You see it played out well in the now-in-theatres again tale by Victor Hugo Les Miserables. Grace changes the life of a convict to be a different man and to give grace to others. All the while a man who lives under the law of justice meets his demise because he cannot live in a world where grace exists.
Time: We don’t change overnight. Sometimes. But often change is time compounding on the lessons of grace and truth and slowly… you will see someone grow.
We need all of these together. If grace is present but truth is not you will be enabling yourself or others to live in a fantasy at best, in addiction or harm to others at worse. If all truth is there and no grace you will get a hard and legalistic person where no one can fail around them.
This same book talked about other things such as healthy “bonding” with others: how we connect and have intimacy and “boundaries:” knowing what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. All of these have been life changing truths I have had to learn again and again. I’ll give you a story for one illustration on how all of this can work together.
I once knew someone who did not get grace at all. No matter how I tried to communicate it to them their base response was guilt. This was baffling to me. I could act with mercy and forgiveness to them or talk about grace and say I was for them and they just did not receive it no matter how hard I tried. As I got to know this person better some major addictions and unhealthy ways of treating people came into the open which were destructive to the other person as well as to myself. Before having read this book a decade or so ago I would have just stayed around. It’s my base way of operating. I naturally have pretty terrible boundaries due to some things I learnt as a child. I did actually stick around for awhile. I gave them chance after chance after chance and forgiveness upon forgiveness and all were met with the same behaviours or worse and at the very least I was experiencing emotional abuse amidst a myriad of other wrongs from this person. They would manipulate me and I’d forgive them and fall for it again. Sometimes even when we know “truth” it is hard to live that way. These are points “how people grow..” not that we are always consistent! I have a lot of areas in my life I need to grow in. Boundaries are still one of them. As I stayed I tried to communicate both grace and truth to this person. I offered them grace and forgiveness and myself when no nut-job would have stuck around. Healthy people say no friendship here when you have done all of this____. I also tried to give truth to the situation. This person was in deep and going down. I couldn’t bare to see it happening. I love them dearly. The long and short of it was that it was not helping the person. Worse it was damaging me. Remember, the way this person related with people that emerged was not just damaging to themselves, but to me as well. It took a long time but eventually boundaries kicked in. Grace + Truth + Time = Growth.. they had the option of dealing with the things in their life that would destroy themselves and the people in their life or not. They had the opportunity to have what was happening come to light. Truth was brought in. They had received a lot of grace and forgiveness. They had not changed. Grace does not mean enabling someone. It was not my responsibility for them to grow. I don’t like to say that. It is easy for me to be overly responsible for others. The long and short of it was I withdrew relationship from them because I was for them. It was not to spite them. It was because I loved them I could not be a part of the cycle. It was because I started to look after myself, that I could not be the person to try to “fix them.” That was not my responsibility. I was responsible for myself. When there is trust in a relationship you can be careless in a relationship. In healthy ways of relating, the other person will look after you. But when there is no trust, you cannot be careless for they will only look after themselves. I was very careless but it became apparent they were not trustworthy. It was because I did not want to enable them to be an addict who used people as a means to an end that I needed to stay away. The long and short of it was that when I tried to create this boundary it did not work very well. The person continued to try to cross it with promises of change for months. But they had promised before many times and the addictions remained. I had been privy to that. I had been damaged by that. Boundaries do not mean you do not forgive. They mean you stop taking responsibility for what is not yours and taking responsibility for what is. I could not trust this person until there was major change in their life. I forgave this person though all I had was their word they were changed and did not see real change in their life yet. In fact I saw signs that concerned me. I wrote them an email eventually outlining some boundaries for the relationship which was that I was not going to be their best bud again for my own sake until the change was clear and apparent through a few means that showed me there was integrity to their words. The person acted out on that and in anger showed me that my fears and doubts all appeared to be true. Because cliff hangers are annoying.. I will leave it at that and tell you whether there was a happy ending or not another day. Grace + truth applied (or learnt) + time lived out will determine where this person ended up.. and the boundary is.. I could not grow for them or make them learn it or change…
What is missing in the equation for you today? A dose of reality? A major truth in life like knowing God is good? Experiencing grace? A bit more time? Do you need to start having boundaries with people? Is there something you should say no to? What needs to change in your life? Is it a growth goal for 2013? Is it an assignment for work? What is keeping you stuck?