Who You are Becoming

We all grow. And, whether we are aware of it or not, we all change. We not only grow physically, we change in other ways. For instance, we grow in our roles. One mother told of how she changed as a parent. She mentioned that when her first baby coughed or sneezed, they’d practically rush her to the hospital. But Mom mellowed over the years. One day her youngest swallowed a dime. No hospital visits. No histrionics. She just said, “You know, don’t you, that the dime will come out of your allowance?”

We grow in our roles. And we grow in other ways also. We grow mentally. I hope we are wiser and more knowledgeable today than we were in the past.

And we grow emotionally. Are you better at handling adversity today? Are you a kinder, more generous person? Do you find it easier to love and forgive? Dr. Karl Menninger said this about love and growth: “We do not fall in love, we grow in love and love grows in us.” Is love growing in you?

We also have the chance to grow in another important way — spiritually. I hope your spirituality is not the same as it was when you were a child. You probably discovered that the spirituality that worked so well for you back then no longer satisfies. 

Many children were taught to pray something like this: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.” (Actually, that prayer is a  little brutal when you think about it and I’m told that it originated from a time when plagues swept Europe and children feared that they indeed may not awaken from sleep.) But, if you’re like most people, your spirituality matured as you grew up. A child may pray, “Give me…” or “Help me…” When he/she becomes an adult, he/she may find he/herself more often praying, “Use me….” or simply “Thank you.”

We never stop growing and changing. We grow firmer or more flexible in our attitudes. We develop new skills and abilities. We grow in vision and we grow in confidence. We may also change in negative ways if we’re not careful. We may grow more fearful, more cynical or insensitive to others. We may even find ourselves becoming people we don’t like very much. Life is all about growing and changing. If you’re not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are in the process of becoming someone you had no intention of being. 

I find one question that, if asked repeatedly, has an amazing power to put intentional growth on the fast track. This one question, more than anything else, can help you take control of how you will grow and change. The question is, “What would the person I want to become do in this situation?” That question alone will help you make different decisions, change the way you act and even change the way you think. That one question, asked regularly, may be the single most important way to take control of how you will grow in body, mind, emotions and spirit. It seems to work something like this:

What if you are one of the millions who have lost their jobs or suffered a serious financial setback in this pandemic turmoil? You might want to just give up. Instead, ask the question, “What would the person I want to become do in this situation?” Then decide to do it. You may not feel at all hopeful. You may even be afraid. But if the person you want to become is an optimistic and courageous person, you might decide not to react in fear. Instead, you might act as if you had no fear of failure and courageously put yourself out there for new opportunities instead of wasting time on regrets, depression or fearful inaction.

Or how about this? Let’s say you were betrayed or somehow deeply hurt by a trusted friend or relative. You may want to strike back in an equally hurtful way, or simply have nothing to do with her anymore. Instead, ask the question, “What would the person I want to become do in this situation?” Then act on that answer. You probably feel anger and more pain than you care to admit, but but if the person you want to become is an emotionally strong individual, you might decide to act with strength, rather than licking your wounds. You might choose an appropriate way to confront that friend and tell her how you feel, talk the problem through and even be ready to forgive if a valued relationship can be restored.

Asking yourself this question regularly and then acting on your answer will shape you bit by bit into a person you admire and respect. No situation is too big or too small. It works equally well with life’s bigger challenges such as the plight of the poor. But the problems seem overwhelming you feel stymied. As a result, you do little to help. Instead, ask the question, “What would the person I want to become do in this situation?” Then actually do it. If you imagine that the person you want to become is generous and engaged in social problems, you might find a local project and volunteer time and, if possible, money. You would figure out how to make volunteer service and generosity, or even advocacy for the poor, part of your increasingly engaged lifestyle.

I think George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Creating yourself may be the most vital and important job you do. It is the task of every day. And it is also an important gift you give yourself — the gift of creating the person you want to be. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that you’re not wonderful now. You might be just the person you need to be in this moment. Enjoy yourself. Even celebrate yourself. After all, it took a lifetime to get where you are today! But remember…someone else is waiting ahead — a different version of you. And you have the opportunity to create that person, little by little, every day. “What would the person I want to become do in this situation?”

Grace and Peace

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