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Cultivating Community - Character and Needs

This morning in our family devotional, we read from Luke’s Gospel as Jesus teaches, “How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye?” (Luke 6:42). As I consider the difficult task of communication in community, this lesson of first looking toward ourselves is extremely important. Last week, we considered what presuppositions we used to fill in the gaps of communication and considered what it might be like to intentionally choose the best possible meaning when more than one meaning was possible. This week, we will consider our point of focus in community. 

The passage from Luke this morning reminded me of Neil Anderson’s teaching on character and needs in relationship. He teaches that in functional relationships, each person's focus is on his/her own character and the needs of the other person. In dysfunction relationships, the priority is reversed and we are each concerned with judging the deficiencies of the other persons character and meeting our own needs. When I consider the people that frustrate, anger, and discomfort me the most, they are the ones who reflect the parts of my own character that I would rather deny, especially those that I have worked hard to conceal rather than allow God to heal. I avoid arrogant people who remind me of my own pride. I get angry at people who fail to live up to a commitment because they remind me of the many commitments that I have broken. I condemn the disloyalty of others because they remind me of my own disloyalty. It is much easier to focus on the speck than the log. 

What if instead, I allowed God to heal and restore my own character. What if instead of lashing out in anger or judgement at the person who reflects my own shortcomings, I responded by bringing my own brokenness and hurt before God for healing? 

One of the great gifts of recognizing myself in my judgement of another person’s behavior is that I can also recognize the needs that the behavior seeks to satisfy. I can begin to recognize in the actions of others the insecurity, the over-commitment, the need for affirmation, the desire to be noticed, valued, and included that drives my own counterproductive behavior. What if instead of responding with accusation and condemnation of the behavior, I sought to extend grace and meet the need that the behavior is seeking to fill or hide?

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