A friend of mine asked me to sum up what the past several years have taught me. Kind of a New Year’s reflection sort of thing. It was a fun exercise, so I thought I’d put a few of them on the blog, phrased like I’m giving advice to my past self.
(Side note: have you ever wondered if Present You would be friends with Past You if they were able to meet?)
I will let you imagine the circumstances that prompted each lesson. Here’s a hint: most of them involve me being a jerk, then having someone point that out to me. And to be honest, I still fail at almost everything mentioned below. The difference is…now I know the problems I have, and I’m trying to work on them.
And bonus! You get them for free, without having to learn the hard way.
One: There is a difference between listening and waiting to talk. (You mostly wait to talk. Stop that.)
Two: Loving others is more important than being proven right.
Three: Watch for the person at the party who offers to help the host or cleans up afterward. Talk to that person. He or she will almost always be pretty cool.
Four: Also, watch for the person who is gracious to the incredibly annoying person at the party/class/Bible study. Same logic.
Five: If you have to choose between your personal ambition and the people you love, always choose the people you love.
Six: Don’t be afraid to tell people specifically what you appreciate about them, even though that intimidates you.
Seven: Uncertainty is okay. Don’t stay there when there are steps you can take, but there will be some answers you never get and some issues you will never have a strong position on.
Eight: People are hard—they will hurt you, betray you, anger you, and generally make your life much more difficult. But if you avoid difficult relationships, if you only spend time with people who are easy to get along with, you will miss so much. You will learn more about God and grace through those relationships than any other means so far.
Nine: Learn to accept compliments and offers of help graciously. It’s encouragement, not a grenade that you feel like you have to drop instantly.
Ten: While you’re at it, learn to apologize. Whether or not it repairs the damage you’ve done, whether or not you’re the only one at fault, it cultivates humility. And trust me, you need that and probably always will.
Eleven: You know that difficult, broken situation where you actually said, “I don’t think anything redemptive can come from this?” It will. Because that’s who God is and what he does. Wait for it, and don’t forget to be thankful (and a little shocked).
Twelve: Serving others is a great way to show love for God, but it can’t be the basis of your entire relationship with God. At some point, you’ll have to stop and ask: what does my relationship with God look like outside of the things I do in the church?
Thirteen: In a generation that leaves too quickly, stay. Bear with others’ faults and flaws. Commit instead of wandering. Don’t settle for shallow connections. And refuse to write people off as lost causes.
Fourteen: Don’t look at the world in general and the church specifically as vending machines to meet your needs. Come to serve.
Fifteen: Contentment is nearly impossible you if you are constantly missing the opportunities and people you left behind or dreaming of the mythical opportunities and people you’ll meet in the future. The circumstances and people around you right now are not perfect, but they are here and they matter.
Sixteen: Even when you feel uncomfortable in a social situation and do not know what to do, do not make it into a rerun of the Amy Green Show (where you are the host, star, and celebrity guest). This show always gets poor ratings, even from you, so it’s probably time to cancel it.
Seventeen: Other women are not competition. You need to stop comparing yourself to them, and especially subtly bringing them down while in the presence of men. They are your sisters, and it’s critical that you love and support each other.
Your turn! Name one bit of advice (or several) you’d pass on to yourself five years ago.
(And to the dedicated readers who hold me to every word I write here: I know, I said this week’s post was going to be about Rogue One. But I have some more thinking to do on that one, so it’ll wait till later this month. And I know: “What about a blockbuster franchise film could possibly need more thinking?” But just trust me.)