Giving up for the greater good

I was talking to Adam about his recent comments on his Lent experience (read them here) and I started thinking about what sucks up valuable time in my life and steals my joy.

And as I thought about it, I realized there’s a lot of things. I mean, a lot a lot. Food, meaningless time in the interweb…

But I think there are two big things for me. They’re not really Lent-type things to give up so easily, more “putting sin to death” items. These being anger and an uncertainty about accepting compliments as compliments.

I get angry far more quickly than I’d prefer; not nearly as much as when I was a younger man, but it’s something I’m on the watch for constantly. And as Adam and John (my good friends and colleagues) can attest, some days are better than others. Ephesians 4:26-32 is a constant reminder to me that I must be vigilant in this. It’s okay, even a good thing sometimes, to be angry. My problem is when it turns into sinful anger and I get unnecessarily cutting and harsh with my words.

My other issue is compliments. I cannot easily accept a compliment, even if it is genuine. Perhaps it’s because so often compliments are used as political currency: I say something nice about you to butter you up, then spring my agenda. Perhaps it’s some bizarre form of pride. I’m sure someone would say it’s because I didn’t get enough hugs as a kid. All this to say, I don’t know how to react to compliments, much to my detriment.

Not surprisingly, both of these issues are related. Both point to a lack of grace, both to give and to see.

So here’s the big idea:

If you’re like me, a glass half-empty type, try this when you’re angry about something (and this is something I fully admit is stolen from CJ Mahaney): Ask yourself where the evidence of God’s grace is present in the life of the person you’re angry with, or in the circumstance you’re upset about. And this is especially important if you’re angry with a Christian brother or sister. While I admittedly struggle in following my own advice, it does help – it reminds me that God is working in the life of this person; that Jesus died for them just as much as he died for me, and we’re all equally worthy of judgement.

Regarding compliments, it’s the same idea. We need to trust that a compliment that is made with no strings attached is just that: A kind and gracious gesture of appreciation. When we fail to see grace, and when we are unable to accept compliments, it really just serves to harden our hearts.

So how am I doing with these? Honestly, pretty lousy a lot of days. But I’m trying. I believe that these sins will be put to death, so that grace may abound.

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