Human beings have problems. Some problems are more complicated than others. Some problems are the result of difficult circumstances or people in our lives, and some problems are caused by our own wrong choices. The crucial point is not whether we have problems or even who is to blame for them, but how we respond to them.
There are many ways of responding to our problems. We may ignore them, hide them, divert attention from them, laugh at them, get angry at them, use them for excuses, work on them, attack them, or talk about them.
The way we respond to our problems is determined largely by how we view them. I would like to consider two ways we may view our problems.
The first way of looking at a problem is the "protective view." This person is afraid of problems. He despises having problems. He fears that people will reject him if they see he has problems. He doesn't like to look at his problems unless he is forced to, and when forced, he faces his problem only to get rid of it as soon as possible. His goal is to put it behind him, bury it, and never look at it again.
How does the protective view affect the way I respond? How does it guide my behavior?
The second way of looking at a problem could be termed the "accepting view." This person has chosen to face his problem squarely and honestly. He says to himself, "This is me. I am choosing to accept that I have a problem, and I will take responsibility to work on my problem wisely." This person knows that what people think is not as important as what God thinks. He knows that the people who really care about him will be understanding as they see him working honestly to resolve the problem. He sees his problem as a means of deepening his relationship with God, as a means of spiritual growth, and as a way of cultivating meaningful interaction with others.
- I develop subconscious habits to keep others from seeing my problem.
- I resent when people see my problem, and my attitude finds expression in my tone of voice, my choice of words, etc.
- I become defensive about people's comments or suggestions related to my problem.
- I build a protective shell around sensitive areas in my life, and I don't let people get close to me in those areas.
- I may focus on excelling in other areas to distract people from noticing my problem.
- I may become critical of others and intolerant of their faults.
If I have an accepting view of my problems, how will this affect my responses?
When we have an accepting view of a problem, we will not view the problem as something to get behind us and bury. We will realize that problems are one of God's methods of changing us, one of the ways He writes His message of grace on our lives. We will view our problems as opportunities for God to humble us, show us our dependence on Him, teach us His principles, and equip us to be effective servants in His kingdom.
- I will open myself to the Lord to show me my problems.
- I will give the Lord freedom to use whatever methods he chooses to help me work through my problems.
- I will be open to other people about my problems, as it is appropriate to my relationship with them.
- I will allow others to help me.
- I will be patient with myself and with others in working through my problems, knowing that change is a process.
- I will develop meaningful ways of sharing with others, both in reflecting on what God is teaching me and in listening to the problems and insights others may share with me.
People with the protective view are not real. They would rather live behind masks than face themselves as they are. But masks keep us from meaningful relationships.
The Apostle John wrote, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). This is a major principle in relationships. If we hide, we cannot get close to one another. If we walk in the light, however, we can have rich fellowship. God gives His grace to the humble, not to the perfect, and especially not to the ones who pretend to be perfect.
DLM newsletter article index