It is amazing how tempting that phrase is. Advertisers continue to use it frequently, which means that it must work, and most of us would have to admit that we actually would like to know any shortcuts which lead to health, wealth and happiness. Truthfully, most of the time there is no shortcut at all, just a lot of hard work and consistent smart, unselfish choices. However, occasionally there really is one trick that makes a big difference in outcome.
For example, I played 18 holes of golf with my parents last weekend. They are very good at this game, and I am…not. Actually, I am not bad until it comes to putting, and then everything breaks down quickly. On one hole, my mom happened to watch my method closely and said, “I think you turned your wrist there right at the end of your swing. Keep your wrists steady as you follow through on the put.” The next hole, I tried her advice, and she was right! I was much less horrible at putting from then on out. It is amazing what one small shift in thinking can do.
Similarly, there is one shift in thinking that can dramatically reduce conflict and misery. This change in perspective was a theme in the writing of Anne Ortland, and it has been so revolutionary in my own life. Her premise is that so much negativity in thought and action comes from the fact that many often enter each day, each room, and each conversation with the idea, “Here I am – what can you do for me?” It is like wearing my feelings right on my sleeve. Then, when people do not care sufficiently that I am with them, my feelings are easily hurt. When my husband or my children or my coworkers or the people in my church do not rejoice and drop everything to pay attention to me, my day is ruined.
What if we were able to start with any tragedy in relationship and work backwards from the explosion to find exactly what caused it? A man and a woman are divorcing. They can no longer stand to be in the same room with one another, and can not say or think anything but vile and hateful thoughts towards one another. Bitter arguing and accusation is the only form of communication left in their relationship. If we pick up the thread and trace it back, we could see that at some point, each decided that the other was no longer for them, but against them. At some point, each of them decided that “here I am” was the only important thing in the relationship.
It can be argued that all of the trouble in the world comes down to how we treat one another and respond to one another. Certainly, on a global scale there are vastly different worldviews that clash, but in the day-to-day, hurt feelings often come down to one person believing that they have been overlooked or slighted by another and then choosing to take offense. Families break apart over this, children are damaged forever because of this, churches fracture because of this – and it is remarkably easy to fix
Instead of entering each interaction with, “Here I am – what can you do for me?”, everything changes if we enter each interpersonal interaction with, “There you are! How can I help and encourage you today?”
I can handle it if that guy at church says something slightly rude again – perhaps he does not mean to sound quite so condescending. I can handle it if my coworker snaps at me – perhaps she is going through something difficult that I do not know about. I can handle it if my spouse or child is in a grumpy mood – I know that I feel grumpy sometimes, too and do not have to add drama to the situation by reacting poorly. I cannot control what other people say and do, but I can refuse to retaliate, and instead sow only kindness and mercy into the relationship. When a choice is made to focus on the other person’s well-being, everything changes. It is amazing what one small shift in thinking can do.
As Christian people, there is just One whose approval matters. Our security comes from Him, our hope comes from Him, our worth comes from Him, our purpose comes from Him. No one else can take any of that away. If we have the sure foundation of the love and approval of Jesus, then we can face everything and everyone else with a selfless and giving posture – the same selfless and giving posture that Jesus modeled to us…
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – John 15: 9-14
Jesus has loved us so beautifully; He laid down His very life so that we could have forgiveness and eternal life. Because He has shown us the way, we can follow Him in “there you are” love.
Andrew Murray said this so well in The True Vine…
“Love one another. Let your interaction with the Christians in your own family be holy, tender, Christlike love. Let your thoughts of the Christians round you be, before everything, in the spirit of Christ’s love. Let your life and conduct be the sacrifice of love – give yourself up to think of their sins or their needs, to intercede for them, to help and serve them. Be in your church or circle the embodiment of Christ’s love; let the life in which you live it out be all love.”