I do not remember the exact day, but I distinctly recall reaching the age when I first understood that my parents were not the perfect people that I thought they were. The age of innocence was past, and I began the process of learning through observation both what I admired and what I might not want to emulate about my parents.
Before I go on, I do want to say that I recognize how fortunate I am to have grown up in a household where love, support and protection were the norm. For those of you that did not, I hope that the rest of this post will still be meaningful to you and that you are dealing with your circumstances in a healthy manner.
When I talk about my dad, who has been gone now for almost 18 years, the first thing I always say is that my favorite thing about him is that he wasn’t perfect. That might sound strange, but I so appreciated being able to observe that he knew he wasn’t perfect, was not satisfied with that fact, and worked (even struggled) to Do Better. The fact that my dad wasn’t perfect and was still a great man has been a source of encouragement for me through the years when I have faced my own shortcomings. Because of his example, I have been able to take on those shortfalls and seek always to Do Better.
A natural outcome of this observation was that when I became a parent, I endeavored to do things differently where I felt he did not hit the bullseye. I believe that this is the first key principle to take from any relationship in order to work toward becoming the best version of ourselves as a person (a parent and spouse and leader and follower and teammate and friend and sibling and fill in the blank).
But there is a second key principle that is, in my opinion, even more critical. You see, as a parent, I did some things differently than my parents. But then, I made my own mistakes, just different ones. Now that I am a grandfather, I am observing my children doing some things differently than I did, no doubt partially in response to what they observed in me. And that is fantastic. But they will then make different mistakes. This does not invalidate the first key principle, but it makes this second one very important. Here it is: recognize your own shortcomings, do not be satisfied with them, and work (even struggle) to Do Better.
These principles apply to any relationship. Both require you to have the drive to be healthier physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. The second requires you to have the humility to see your shortcomings, but also the determination to not give up.
We are all a work-in-process. For those that identify as followers of Jesus Christ, this process is described in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” For all of us, we are created with a need & desire for growth. Some growth happens naturally but all growth requires sustenance and effort.
Take in what you need and put in the work. You will be happy with the result, and more importantly so will those around you.
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