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
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.)
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