I’m a pretty flexible sort of a girl… which comes with the territory of being an artist in a lot of ways. Have you ever noticed that there are certain sets of traits that seem to come as a package deal? My traits tend towards: artistic, flexible, easily think of new ideas, have a hard time following through on the old ideas, disorganized, free to experiment, and a disdain for routine. Hmmm do you think they just might be a pretty common set of artist’s personality characteristics?!
Each of us has a series of traits that are a strength in one way and a weakness in another. Any and every strength pushed too far becomes a weakness. But be forewarned… when we grow inordinately proud of our strengths they are almost certain to become weaknesses. One example would be the organized wife who can run her household efficiently can very easily become stiff, unyielding, emotionally distant and domineering. The loving doting father who loves to play with his son or daughter, but is so playful he isn’t consistent disciplining them is another example of a strength that can become a weakness.
It is common for the culture and world around to tend to value one set of traits over another. We appreciate the person who is always on time, who’s life’s schedule is in perfect order, and accomplishes all the tasks they set out to do in a day, but ofTen don’t realize how the relationships in their life are strained because of their perfectionistic bent. They can easily become arrogant and proud because they measure up so well to the character traits that are easily measured, while missing the importance of the immeasurable traits of kindness, gentleness and self-control.
As a culture we dislike the indivdual who has the trait of running late, missing deadlines and forgetting appointments, but rarely honor the fact that they tend to be some of the kindest, most loving and approachable people who will set aside their agenda to meet your needs. God made all of these personality traits and delights in the uniqueness He created in each of us, but He also wants us to develop in EVERY SINGLE AREA of our life, developing sound character and a disciplined life.
Each strength in our life needs to be in balance and to do that we need to work towards strengthening those areas of our personality that we find to be weak. The easily organized, scheduled, list-driven achiever needs to work especially hard to be willing to lay aside her accomplishment of the day’s tasks to meet the immediate emotional needs of her family. The spontaneous, fun-loving wife who hates to plan anything, needs to work harder to develop a family schedule that keeps a sense of balance and order or she will not help her children succeed in life. If we want our relationships to grow deeper in love and harmony we don’t get to say, "That’s just who I am and you have to get used to it."
"Wild and crazy," "open to experimentation" and "banker" aren’t usually associated with each other are they?! A banker or accountant will tend towards a rigidity and love of routine that makes what they need to do much easier for them to accomplish. Yet while those characteristice can be fabulous in the CPA that does your books they might be quite difficult to live with if you’re their 13 year old daughter or their artist/creative/craft-loving wife! Perhaps this individual needs to work at developing their playful side (they might never do it spontaneously but they CAN plan some play time!!!)
Once we figure out a little bit more of who we are, we need to be willing to adjust who we are to fit with those we share our lives. What do you love the most about them? What character trait is at the root of it? What is the "flip-side" of that character trait and does it drive you nuts?! If you think through your family and friend’s character traits enough to see the benefits of each personality AND remind yourself frequently of why you love them, it gets so much easier! If you simply react to the fact that they are different from you without valuing those differences you’re probably headed for some very unhappy and strained interactions.
Some women I really enjoy were discussing their recently retired husbands. They both love their husbands dearly and are happily married, yet the change was making them change their routines perhaps a little more than they were comfortable with. They were both irritated, frustrated and hating the change. Having a retired husband at home when they were still working meant that their "domain" was being taken over in their abscence!!! The kitchen that each needs to be organized HER way, pretty much had no pattern by the time she arrived home. You could tell they were really struggling with the adjustment because of the natural inflexibility that tends to come with age.
After listening to them for a while I gently broke in with this reply, "I was widowed at 36 years old and discovered the hard way that the very things that most drove me nuts, were some of the things I MISSED the most when my husband was gone. A perfectly clean home that is empty is not a very joyful place." I could tell that these wonderful women really heard what I had to say… sometimes we just don’t think beyond our immediate irritation or frustration to what it is about our mates or our children that we delight in so much.
When I value my characteristics more than yours, I can tend to become inflexible and hard to live with. When I take the time to list what it is I love about you and then see how the flip-side of those character traits might be a little frustrating, they become a little easier to make adjustments for.
"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape!" Relationships take flexibility and that flexibility has to be worked at a little harder as the years go by as we tend to become more inflexible naturally. Perhaps this prayer would be helpful if you struggle in this area:
"Lord, I really do love my family, but I am finding myself getting irritated, frustrated and forgetting WHY I love them. Please help me to see their good characteristics and perhaps even write them down to remind myself. when I need to Show me what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to adjust my expectations accordingly.
Show me where I am proud, unyielding or inflexible because of my strengths and show me what I might be blind to as to my own weaknesses. Fill my heart with grace for the weaknesses of others instead of a critical spirit. Help me to grow where I am weak and learn to control strengths that tend to get out of balance. I can’t do it without your help! AMEN"
THE SCRIPTUREOF THE DAY: 2 Cor 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.