Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stop Pointing Our Fingers Elsewhere!

The mayor of Ferguson gave a news conference yesterday afternoon as he brought together various local clergy, business owners and residents to speak of unity, peace and love.  All of those who spoke after the mayor were African American and they spoke of God, His love and the need for prayer. The last person to speak was the most inspiring. Here are Helen Douglas Taylor's words, a resident and educator in Ferguson ~

  “I really want to appeal to parents that we have to understand the awesome responsibility of raising our children and consequences of actions and one small act, though it seems small, affects so many. But this isn’t the end. We can get through this but we all have to look in the mirror, each and everyone of us and take an examination of everything that we do and what we say. And it is about human life, not black, white, purple or polka dot. It is about God’s love, one to another. I felt fortunate that just going about my day, God chose me, even in my sinful nature, to stand here and have this platform to say let’s take an examination of ourselves because once we examine ourselves and stop pointing our fingers elsewhere, I believe change can happen, and can happen with the grace of God.”

Helen Taylor gets it. She understands that personal, spiritual and cultural change begins with human responsibility. Only when a person is willing to own their behavior can they progress to the next level of life, relationships and success. As Steven Covey well said,  "Responsibility is the ability to choose your response!"

Whether we are talking about solving our marriage problems, our country's racial issues, or any relationship issue whatsoever, little progress can be made until each party looks into their own soul and behavior and examines themselves as to what they can do to be a part of the solution, not the problem. You often find a hurting soul asking a question of us as to how to change their spouse, and our first and most important response is almost always to try and help the questioner look into their own life and behavior before they can move forward to try to help influence another. 

I {Ken} recall some years ago when I was consulting with a team in Grenoble, France and  met a very talented, yet angry and bitter team member. She listened intently as I spoke to the group and thanked me for my challenge to all of them to own their own stuff so that they can grow up, and rid themselves of bad thinking that leads to bad behavior. A few weeks later, she contacted me and said that she was intrigued by what I taught, but she could never be happy again. She was a survivor of some of the worst life had to offer, culminating with her  difficult marriage by coming home with her two children in tow to find her bipolar husband had blown his brains out on the couch. "You see Ken, for some of us we will never be happy again."

It would have been so easy to just agree with her and thank her for sharing. Maybe even tell her I was praying for her, but I did nothing of the sort. What I did was to challenge her just as Helen is challenging the people in her community. I spent hours over many days of exchanged emails working not on her behavior, but on her "stinking thinking." Only when we change our minds by replacing Satan's lies with the truth can we ever grow up and reap the rewards that come from walking in the light. My little disciple tried and failed many times before she finally was able to make great progress in her life. A year later, she accepted the Lord and she is now a successful consultant herself in Europe, coaching others that change is possible no matter how difficult the circumstances. All because she was willing to examine her own life, even when we all would excuse her if she had just given up. 

The Ferguson story does not have to be one of an endless, hopeless, racial divide, if we will follow Helen's call for each of us to look in the mirror and take responsibility for our own thinking and actions first, then lend a gracious hand to those who need help in progressing forward to a life of success, instead of disaster. No matter what the grace and love given, whether by society or by God, if one is unwilling to accept it and be thankful for it, we can never appropriate it into our lives. Anger, bitterness and disdain for others, or the past, or one's present circumstances only holds our bright future hostage. Whether it is your spouse you feel has failed you, or your church, or society, you will never be able to grow up and be all that you were meant to be without doing your part, even when others do not do theirs. 

It is not difficult to know if your mind is aligned with the good things in life, or the bad things; if your values are aligned with worldly things, or God's eternal values. Just look at the results.  If the results of your behavior do not match up with the fruit of the Spirit, then you cannot expect that God's goodness and blessings will be upon you. If you are waiting for one more person to be gracious towards you before you can get that frown off your face, or put a smile in your heart, then you are doomed to fail. For no one can ever achieve personal or spiritual growth or success while being tossed to and fro by the circumstances of life, or by others. It you want to change your circumstances, first change yourself and build your life on values as they are the rock solid foundation of God's Word.

Bravo Helen, and all who spoke of personal responsibility, love and unity, in a day and age when these are the things most desperately needed in our society.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
 and then you will see clearly to take
 the speck out of your brother's eye.
Matthew 7:5