GUEST POST by Dane Tyner
Dane Tyner is the founder and director of Home Improvement Ministry (H.I.M.) in Tulsa, OK. Please read more about Dane and learn how to connect with him at the end of today's post.
All our relationships are not alike, are they? Even within our own families, relationships can be markedly different. The challenges of understanding one another and getting along with one another are not equally distributed. Some relationships seem relatively easy to maintain, others seem impossible. I think everyone knows this and seeks to navigate relational life with such awareness. How you and I choose to navigate is probably not the same as well. We are unique beings.
This is a very important point and worthy of a bit of elaboration. In my work with people, I try to remind myself of the uniqueness of each person I am privileged to know. Though I might notice many similarities between different people, I have learned to always appreciate the differences that make each person unique. Respecting the uniqueness of others has tremendous benefits for both the giver and receiver!
What are some simple ways to respect the uniqueness of others and ourselves?
Though there may be hundreds of applications, I will just share two. Has anyone cautioned you about the use of the sentence, “I know how you feel”? We tend to do this a lot; often it is not injurious and almost never malicious. We may meet someone going through divorce, and because we have gone through a divorce, we say “I know how you feel.” Do you? Probably not! You know how you felt when you went through yours; that does not mean that your new acquaintance has the feelings you had.
In grad school, taking a course in divorce, the professor asked the class what kind of feelings people have in the wake of divorce. People began to call out a lot of feelings with which I was very familiar when I went through mine; then I heard a lady behind me say, “relief.” I was stunned. I never felt relief! Even over the many months of processing a variety of painful emotions and working through the grief, I would never identify a time when I felt relief. I very gradually came to terms with my new life.
I’ve seen this dynamic in another notable place, relationships with parents. I had a very bad relationship with my father. Our relationship was strained at best. I have heard friends talk about their dads in such delightful terms. Some whose dads have passed on as has my dad, speak of missing him greatly. I’ve never missed my Dad. Yes, that is sad. I miss not having a dad that I could have missed badly, but I do not miss the dad I had. When someone tells me that their dad died, I don’t say, “I know how you feel.” I probably don’t, and I would hope they didn’t feel what I felt when mine died.
A second application of the truth about our uniqueness was recently brought to my attention as I read a book on personalities. The particular author, a psychologist, is definitely not a fan of personality tests. He actually believes personality tests are more harmful than helpful. They do enable us to easily place ourselves and others into personality boxes. Whether we are offered four boxes, 12 boxes, 16 boxes or more, they are inadequate to define the whole of any unique human being.
May I encourage you to stop putting yourself and others in such self-limiting boxes? They do limit transformational growth. Rather than embracing some limited identity, based on some personality test that only marks where you are in a moment in time, passionately engage the God who uniquely made you and become all that He intends for you to be.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that respecting the uniqueness of everyone you know, including yourself, is a liberating perspective. It will enable you to grow. It will enable you to allow others to grow. It will allow you to build depth of relationship with others. We were made for depth of relationships, yet it becomes far too easy to settle for more superficial and safe ones.
Will you commit to building relationships with a growing regard for our uniqueness?
Will you commit to building your life and your relationships with a growing awareness of the God who made us on purpose?
I am not suggesting this is easy, just that it is worthwhile. Living out your unique purpose in God is most fulfilling. Let’s choose it in Jesus’ name.
Dane Tyner has served as an ordained Christian minister since May of 1979. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology from Oral Roberts University and a Master of Science degree in counseling psychology from Northeastern State University. His wife, Kathryn, works closely with him in their ministry at H.I.M., a trans-denominational ministry, providing a variety of Christian family services including personal and family counseling, seminars, and written materials designed to help people overcome obstacles to the life God wants us to claim in Christ. Learn more at www.forhim.org.
If you're struggling with a damaged relationship, check out Dane's latest book - Everyone's Job, Repairing Damaged Relationships. This book will help you gain clarity about what you can do to enable healing, and where the limits of your responsibility to effect needed repairs lie.