A few years ago I was having a conversation with a man who had sparkling silver hair and ‘stress’ marks (aka wrinkles) from the thousands of people he’s served throughout his life. His profession was Teacher and Coach but his expertise was in sharing the truth (in love). There are certain people you meet who cross the boundaries of co-worker or acquaintance and start to influence you in ways that only great friends and mentors do. While I only knew him for a short time via employment, he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received.
At the time I had been dating a person who I really enjoyed spending time with, however, this person was missing some of the qualities that were really important to me in a relationship – it must have just been a physical attraction because I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. My wiser and older friend Mike (who, at the time, had been married over 40 years) frequently tended to ask me personal questions – so he knew me quite well; I believe he found satisfaction in counseling younger people who were naïve and inexperienced in life. I was 24 years old at the time, so I qualified. In any normal circumstance I would hesitate to elaborate on anything personal unless there was a foundation of trust in the relationship. But, Mike was different. He had earned my trust.
I had expressed to him the challenges I was experiencing in connection with the man I was hoping to pursue a relationship with. In my communication with Mike he asked me three very specific questions (as if this wasn’t his first conversation counseling someone on relationships):
1) Does this person challenge you in a way that makes you want to be better?
2) Is he passionate about something important?
3) Does he love God?
He said (paraphrased), “Imagine I am standing on top of this desk looking down on you who are standing on the floor. I want you to get to ‘my level’ but I can’t physically make you unless you have a desire to stand on the desk with me. It is nearly impossible to raise someone up to your level (i.e. change them, force them to grow or be where YOU want them to be). You can influence them by your actions but you can’t force them to change. In fact, what usually happens is the person standing on the floor, by default, will often lower you down to their level, causing you to go backward instead of forward. Negative influence is just as powerful as positive influence. People can always rise to a new level, if they choose to, but you can’t make them rise. If these qualities are important to you and these are the exact qualities missing in his life, then you may find yourself fighting a battle that you will never win.”
This made so much sense to me because the key missing ingredients that created a disconnect in any potential future with this person were the very things that Mike was explaining. Understanding that the things that are important to me (personally) are a good indicator of the qualities that attract me to others. I have always known that association matters, but this visual changed everything. In fact, since that conversation I have not only been able to define what I am looking for in a future spouse but in every relationship I have with people; realizing that Mike offered me some of the best advice I have ever received.
This example is very true of all our association – not just in searching for a spouse. Of course none of us are perfect. I am not searching for the perfect man, just a man who makes me want to be better by his example, has a passion for similar interests of importance and loves the Lord. But the point being that it is critical to surround yourself with people who also display all the qualities that are important to you. For me, it is people who have a hunger to grow with a passion and a purpose. LIFE Founder Orrin Woodward is often heard quoting, “You become who you associate with.” Whether that is a potential spouse, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a business partner, etc. The worst thing that can happen is that you ‘get off the desk’ and stop growing and developing in the important things because of your association with a negative influence. That is why I love my association with LIFE Leadership. I am challenged to grow daily, I am surrounded by winners who are humble and hungry and I am mentored by men and women who love the Lord and are passionate about things that matter. I make it a priority to surround myself with people who have these qualities or are seeking to have these qualities because my priorities all fall under the umbrella of these three exact questions. I pray that you have a clear idea of the qualities that are important to you and that you never settle for less in your relationships than what you expect of yourself.