Throughout my late teens and twenties and into my early thirties I hung around a lot of pretty accomplished musicians. We were committed to playing music and pursuing “feel good” experiences. We were serious about the music, career and friendship, but lacked life direction and had rather short term plans and goals. Along with the positive focus were also destructive behaviors with potentially disastrous consequences.
Then when my forties were in full swing I started meeting with a group of about a dozen guys on a weekly basis (mostly) that lasted about twenty years. This group was composed of men from both our church and others. The common theme was unity in our purpose to grow and mature spiritually.
The contrast between the two sets of groups is stark. You might dismiss my earlier group’s lack of focus as simply typical of our youthful age, but that would not be entirely accurate. My spiritual group had guys of a variety of ages over the years, and some were quite young. The difference was the guiding values that motivated each group.
These days as I counsel I often ask myself “Who is influencing this person?” Sometimes I ask the question to a person outright, and sometimes I just ask the question in my heart. The answer to this question will have a lot to do with the direction the sessions will take. Are the influencers fueling anger, bitterness, and resentment, or are they encouraging and giving support for godly values?
My earlier group of friends would have given me advice like:
“You don’t have to put up with that.”
“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
“Go for it. You won’t get caught.”
My latter group would say:
“Have you owned your part?”
“Have you gone to the mat and done everything you can do?”
“Don’t give up. You’re the right man for the job.”
“You’re following your feelings, not God.”
Sometimes we have to cut ties or at least censor the content of our conversations with those that are pressing us to adopt ideas that are in conflict with our beliefs and values. It’s really hard to resist asking well-meaning people for their advice when we know they will offer support that moves us away from our places of pain. But pain has a nasty habit of finding us by a different route when we try to avoid it.
Perhaps you can relate?
Are there outside voices you need to mute?