You Go First (Tips for Improving You and Your Relationships)
If you’re hoping someone you care about will change, and if you want to be proactive in helping that change happen, you should act the way you want that other person to act. That is, you go first.
“Go first?” Yes! I know you can make all sorts of excuses about why the other person is actually the problem, and they truly may be misbehaving badly. But, rather than over-focusing on their bad behavior, why not work on you? (If you’ve already been working on you, great! Keep going!)
Need examples? If you want more kindness, more respect, more love, etc., then work on being kinder, more respectful, and more loving. If you catch yourself being unkind, disrespectful, and unloving, then take responsibility: “I’m so sorry. I was unkind. I was disrespectful. I was unloving. I hope you will forgive me. I’ll keep working on it.” Next, get back on track with trying to be a better version of your sinful self.
Not sure where to start? In addition to the tips I’ve already offered, spend time asking God to help you change. Additionally, read and apply the Bible’s wisdom. For starters, consider Micah 6:8, which sets forth some key spiritual, personal, and relational goals. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” If you behave in these ways, change is inevitable—for you if not for the other person, and they, too, are likely to experience the ripple effects of the change you’re making.
In summary, I want to remind you of when going first can be easy. When trying new activities or food dishes for the first time, we sometimes say to our family or friend, “you go first.” We want to see their reaction first so that we know better what to expect. These types of moments can be exciting moments in which we ultimately just need a little encouragement before taking small leaps of faith.
Making personal and relationship changes isn’t nearly as easy as considering whether or not to ride scary roller coaster rides or try new-to-you cuisine. You can certainly pattern your life after others who have good and healthy relationships. However, in your own relationships, you very likely will need to be the one to go first with making change. That other person may be waiting on you. Maybe they’re lazy, scared, or proud. Maybe they had bad role models growing up. Whatever the backstory on their bad behavior, rather than waiting on them to change, you go first. See what happens. Perhaps you taking the lead will help them to try out the new behavior you’re hoping for.
PS: I know some of you are doubtful. That’s ok. I’m not making any promises. I know people and relationships are complicated. And, I know it’s impossible to capture everybody’s reality in one short blog post. I do, though, hope that my thoughts here may have helped you even if only a little bit. May God bless and multiply your good efforts!
Dr. Shannon Warden has been a member of Triad Baptist Church since 2013. She directs the church’s counseling ministry. She also is an Associate Professor of Counseling for Liberty University. For more information about Shannon’s ministry, visit www.shannonwarden.com.