How to… Be Yourself

Today’s post comes from the example set by my oldest son who is celebrating his 14th birthday today. Before I launch into a diatribe of how he can’t possibly be 14 because I can’t possibly be old enough to have a 14-year-old, let me just say, “Happy Birthday, Jonathan! I love you!”

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“Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love.” – Emma Watson

The quote above fits my son oh so well because one of Jonathan’s biggest strengths lies with his self-confidence. He knows how to stay true to himself. As I thought about why that is and how that is evidenced in his life, 7 qualities that describe Jonathan stood out.

  1. Loyal. Jonathan has a friend others seem to avoid, but my son will choose his friend over an invitation to join the “cool” kids. Why? “He’s my friend, and I like him.”
  2. Individual. Jonathan listens to movie soundtracks like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and other classical-style music. He doesn’t like the music most kids his age listen to.
  3. Simple. Jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes. So much like his dad.
  4. Teachable. He asks for help with his homework as much as he does with the social challenges boys his age face. He gathers input, makes a decision, and then commits to that decision fully.
  5. Diligent. Jonathan sets goals and does what’s necessary to reach them. He needs little supervision.
  6. Honest. Jonathan has always had a very guilty conscience, even as a toddler. He owns up to his mistakes quickly and is honest with his thoughts and opinions. While he is still learning how to better mitigate those responses, his honesty is certainly refreshing.
  7. Humorous. He doesn’t try to be funny. He does sort of “collect” humor from what he reads and watches, and then he makes it his own. Jonathan just says or does what he finds humorous, and he ends up being hilarious.

These 7 qualities not only illustrate how my son Jonathan stays true to who he is, they also offer valuable insight into how each one of us can learn to truly be our unique selves too. At least, he has certainly taught me that lesson in my own life over and over again during these past 14 years.

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God has gifted me with such an amazing son, and I look forward to learning more from Jonathan in the future!

DISCUSSION: What qualities in Jonathan do you want to cultivate in your own life? How do you plan to do this?

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How to… Be Coachable

Tonight when you watch the Olympics, take a few minutes to observe the coaches. They watch with intensity. They cheer. They instruct. They console. They correct. Their emotional intensity rivals that of the athletes themselves.

Coaches see the big picture. They see what the athletes themselves don’t always see. They break down what needs done and how it needs done into small, manageable steps that will add up for big change over time if done consistently.

Yet, nothing a coach does matters if the athlete fails to open himself to being taught. Being coachable can make a talented athlete great. Being teachable can make an average athlete approach greatness too. Even an initially poor athlete can become good and maybe even great if he is coachable.

What does a coachable athlete look like? What attributes does he possess?

Certainly, a coachable athlete must trust his coach, he must be willing to change and try new things, and he must be have the ability to listen. In addition to these essential elements, a coachable athlete must also possess the following three qualities:

  1. Passion for practicing the basics. Even professional athletes still practice the basics regularly. The basics provide the foundation for greatness in any sport, a foundation on which a coach then builds a great athlete.
  2. Willingness to submit without always understanding why. A coach studies and plans, sees the big picture and usually has more experience than the athlete. For these reasons, an athlete must often submit to a coach’s leadership without at least initially understanding the reasoning.
  3. Humbleness for following directions/instructions without question. Especially during competition, an athlete needs to carry out the coach’s game plan and not question his every decision. Humbleness is necessary to let go of one’s own will and submit to another’s will.

These same attributes or qualities seen in a coachable athlete are also visible in a teachable Christian who, like David, pursues the heart of God.

  1. Passion for practicing the basics means being merciful, kind, humble and gentle. The basics also include forgiveness, love and thankfulness. A passion for the basics also includes living out the words of scripture as well as participating in regular fellowship and worship.  (Colossians 3:12-17)
  2. Willingness to submit to Christ means loving Him above all else and following Him wholeheartedly, regardless of the cost. (Luke 14:25-35)
  3. Humbleness that allows us to let go of our own will and desires and following Christ’s. Doing so means admitting our dependence upon Him. (James 5:7-10)

Being a successful athlete as well as being a Christian who pursues the heart of God takes hard work and perseverance. It takes honing specific qualities and habits even when they seem boring or hard to understand. It means following the instruction of those with more experience and who better understand the bigger picture. Being a successful athlete pursuing Olympic gold or a Christian pursuing the heart of God requires being coachable. Are you coachable?

Related “Olympic” Posts:

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How to… Be Accountable

So far in my Christian life, I have been influenced tremendously by both the law (what I should and should not do, obeying the rules) and my own nature (the desires of the flesh). As Kathy Howard says in The Proper Climate – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 1, “freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires.” Instead, true freedom is found as we “live according to… life in the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). (For a terrific study on living in the Holy Spirit and specifically on the fruit of the Spirit, please check out the wonderful Summer Bible study by Kathy Howard titled Fruit of the Spirit: Plant Grow & Cultivate.)

Recently, a friend and I have been pushing each other to focus more on walking in and living life as directed by the Holy Spirit. We are challenging each other tremendously in this area. Had we not been, I am not sure Kathy’s Fruit of the Spirit study would have caught my attention. Why? Having an accountability partner, something I longed for my whole adult life but couldn’t find, has played a large role in tuning my spirit to help me be more in tuned to the Holy Spirit.

Informally, this type of accountability can happen when a body of believers comes together regularly in worship and small group study. It can also happen when a group of runners gather every Saturday morning for their “long runs.” In a more formal sense, the idea of an accountability partner provides a unique way to be encouraged on a more intimate level. Whether formal or informal and whatever the focus and purpose, the benefits of accountability increase when individuals are…

  1. Meeting regularly. My accountability partner and I meet for discussion about every other week, and we see each other at church on Sundays. Face-to-face connections provide the glue for relationships. Hebrews 10:25 warns against stopping this habit and connects it with the idea of accountability.
  2. Connecting often. In our busy culture, meeting face-to-face regularly can be a struggle. Fortunately, that same culture gives a multitude of ways to connect in between face-to-face meetings. Blogs, email, Facebook, and Twitter provide unique ways to connect with others. The truth that No Man Is An Island holds true more today than ever.
  3. Teachable. When I taught college English classes years ago, most students wanted to learn at least to some extent. But a few students wanted to get a passing grade without learning. This isn’t possible in college, and it’s not possible in life either. In order to move toward excellence, one must be willing to learn from others. (Proverbs 23:12)
  4. Transparent. This does not necessarily mean airing one’s dirty laundry, but it does mean an honesty that gives room for true accountability. I have been in what I thought was an accountability relationship where the other person was not teachable or completely transparent, and I discovered that not only was I wasting my time but “casting pearls to swine” too (Matthew 7:6).
  5. Prepared. Just like taking a test without having studied is unwise, so too is expecting accountability to take place when you’ve made no effort to make progress. To prepare for the time with my accountability partner, we both make notes about what the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts, and we come ready to discuss those. There are many ways to prepare for accountability, and the specifics really depend on the unique reasons behind the partnership.

Without question, God encourages the idea of accountability. Hebrews 10:24 says to “think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Whether formally or informally, having people we can encourage and be encouraged by goes a long way in helping us to “hold tightly to the hope we say we have” as well as to “encourage and warn each other, especially now as they day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23, 25).

DISCUSSION: What other elements need to exist in accountability relationships?

Related Posts:

How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Sunday Reflections… No Man is an Island

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