I don’t usually get weird about birthdays, but a couple weeks before I turned 30 (on October 23), it hit me that – arbitrary or not, 30 is a pretty big milestone. Since then, I’ve been wondering what I’ve learned in my first 30 years of life. Here’s what I’ve come up with, 5 at a time!
1. The person who knows 1, knows none.
This is true of languages, religions, culture and pretty much everything. If you don’t take time to get to know someone else in a real and deeply significant way, you won’t know yourself. We have less in common with God than we do with any person on the planet. If we don’t learn how to live in true community with Others, we won’t connect with God as fully as we could. We were designed to need each other.
2. You’ll get further this week developing a genuine interest in 2 other people than trying to get 2 other people interested in you.
This is a quote from Tim Sanders. It’s true. Dale Carnegie also talks a lot about this in his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People. My dad made me read that book when I was 16 and it’s still one of the best books I’ve ever read, one that has shaped me more than most. Learn the art of caring about others… it’s a skill you can develop. And it will change who you are. For the better. Because at the end of the day…
3. It really is more blessed to give than to receive.
We are created in the image of the God who is fundamentally a giver. We are hard-wired to be most fully ourselves when we’re giving. This is the direct opposite of what our culture teaches (and you’ll hear in any Economics class that there’s no such thing as a self-less gift). Giving makes us more human, more truly ourselves. You can learn this art (and if you want a good place to start, do yourself a favor and pick up Miroslav Volf’s Free of Charge).
4. If you can help it, don’t open your mouth unless you’re giving something to someone.
I’m not here yet, but this is where I want to get. I tend to be a very sarcastic person by nature, and I’m tired of making people feel like trash. I want to be a person who’s a constant source of encouragement and life to other people. I don’t want to feel good at someone else’s expense. It’s something I’m still working on.
5. You have to fight for good relationships.
Somehow, I think we all got the impression that if a relationship is right and good, it just comes naturally. Well, bad news… that’s a dirty lie. True life-giving relationships take a lot of work. We have to learn that Others are never going to be like us, no matter how much we try to change them. God revels in diversity, so we have to figure out how to live with Others.
And that takes work. In marriage, in friendship, in family, at work and church and even international politics (I suspect).
We’ve been fed the lie that we should surround ourselves with like-minded people and we’ve happily gobbled it up. Time to switch tables and find some new cuisine!
If you want a good place to start, try reading a book by a person you don’t like (or think you won’t) and forcing yourself to write down something positive for every negative thing you say.