Filling the Void[ance]

My father taught me that discovering our true selves cannot be had by merely avoiding negative behavior we see in others. But herein lays an irony: even avoiding that avoidance is still just … avoiding.

To discover who we are, we need filling not just emptying.

When my father advised me not to fill my life avoiding negatives, he also encouraged me to see the good in others, and imitate it.

Seeing the good in others

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend with eight other men. During the weekend, each man took an hour to tell the story of his life, the good and the bad, the struggles and the triumphs.

After each man’s story we prayed for him, and then we offered insights into his life. We told him what we had observed: the strength he offers, the effect he has on others, and who we see him to be.

Curiously, each of us saw something different: one saw the wisdom that man offers, another saw the encouragement he brings, and another saw the peace he produces. While we affirmed some things in common (the man’s encouragement), each of us also saw something different, because each of us is someone different.

We began to detect a trend: the good that one man saw in other men was frequently the very good we saw in the man who offered that insight. Each of us perceived traits in others that reflected our own desires. Our insight began to reveal our own inner selves.

Seeing the good in others unveils a clue into understanding ourselves

This is not a fad pop psychology. Jesus started it years ago. He said, “I can do nothing of my own accord, but I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19, slightly edited). Jesus filled himself with doing what he saw the Father doing.

Jesus is God, and he can do everything. He announced good news, he bound up the broken hearted, he freed captives, he released from darkness, he proclaimed the year of favor, and he comforted those in  mourning (Is. 61).

We too reveal the glory of God, though to a lesser degree; we reflect a portion of God’s glory. We begin to know who we are—that portion—when we prayerfully reflect on the good we especially desire to imitate: some of us move toward binding up the broken hearted, some toward freeing captives, and some toward releasing others from darkness.

It’s great to imitate Jesus; it’s also great to imitate believers. “What you have … heard and seen in me—do these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).

Let’s not spend our lives on avoidance—avoidance can’t fill our inner vacuum. Let’s prayerfully see the good in others and we’ll do those things we were created to do from before the creation of the world.

We’ll discover who we really are.

So here is a question:

What is the good you see in others that is really a reflection of who you are?

(See also, Avoiding Avoidance.)

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.


3 Responses to Filling the Void[ance]

  1. Randy says:

    Wow Sam! Awesome! A few weeks ago 7 other men and myself did the same weekend story telling thing and it was excactly as you explained it. Some of these guys have known each other for years and there were a couple of new guys and let me tell you, God showed up in a big way. God revealed through this story telling weekend so many things about our true identity… One thing that really surprised me is how God revealed these men’s identity to themselves in hearing what others see in him. Old relationships went to the next level in true words of encouragement and confirmation… Thank you for sharing your awesome heart!

    • Hi Randy,

      Isn’t God’s work great? As when you say, “One thing that really surprised me is how God revealed these men’s identity to themselves in hearing what others see in him.” I’m always surprise that way too, though I shouldn’t be.

      I love to see the joy men experience as they come to know who they really are.

      Thank YOU for sharing YOUR awesome heart!


  2. kenstewart says:

    Good point, Sam. I remember a story I heard about people moving into a new town. The first couple stopped at a gas station (back when they were full service, I suppose) and asked the attendant, “What kind of town is this?” He replied, “What kind of town did you come from?” They said, “It was really the pits. Everyone was always at each other’s throats and could never get along.” He said, “I think you’ll find this town that way too.” The second couple, asking the same question, got the same question in reply. Their response: “It was the best town you could ever have wanted. We hated to leave, but I [the husband] got a job transfer and we couldn’t afford to turn it down.” The attendant smiled wryly: “I think you’ll find this town that way too.”

    We do see what we look for. I once wrote a line in a poem, “In the light, only the blind cannot see.” In these arenas, though, we get to choose our own blindness, or sight….

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