Category Archives: Life Lessons

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

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The desire to be liked and approved of by others runs deep in most of us. Maybe all of us. We are wired for connection to other humans. We are made to be in meaningful relationships. And when we know or sense that someone in our sphere of influence doesn’t like us, it hurts.

From the time we start school as young children, we do whatever we can to gain the acceptance and approval of others.

  • If we’re nerdy, we play the smart card.

  • If we’re goofy, we play the fun card.

  • If we’re athletic, we play the jock card.

  • If we’re musical, we just play something, anything (even a trumpet) to fit in with others who are like us. Hoping beyond hope that others will embrace us as valuable.

As we enter our teen years, we might feign apathy and act as if we don’t care about being liked.

But we do care. A lot.

Over time, after a broken heart or two or twenty, and after rejection after rejection, we typically start to withdraw in an act of self-preservation. However, our retreat from people doesn’t stop our deep-seated need to be recognized and accepted.

Of course, there are some who seem to be liked by everyone, but even those chosen few wrestle with a latent fear of falling out of grace with their peers. These gods among us know how fickle fame can be, and they are painfully aware of the unpredictable nature of mere humans.

We all long for love.

We all want to be valued.

We all desire to be desired.

We all check the number of Facebook likes on our latest post.

For me, I am keenly aware that people are visiting our church every Sunday and that they evaluate me on a regular basis.

Every time I speak, people are appraising me and my abilities.

Is he funny? Is he practical? Is he inspiring? Is he biblical and sound? Is he too old or too young?

Do I like his style? Do I like the way he dresses? Do I relate to him? Do I understand him?

Those questions and many others are running through the hearts and minds of the new folks.

Of course, the old-timers are asking different questions.

Have I heard this talk before? Is that message going to help me grow? Why does he care so much about this topic? Why should I care? Does Kurt care about me?

Trust me; I know what’s going on. I’ve been at this a long time.

When I write, either a blog or a book, the tape playing in the background of my mind is often asking, Will this resonate with the reader?

Like you, I want to be liked. I want to be accepted. I want to be approved of rather than rejected.

But here are some realities I wish I would have learned decades ago:

  1. Everything you do is a bridge to some and a barrier to others. Some will be drawn to you, your style, and your personality. Others, not so much, and it’s okay.

  1. If you are always striving for the approval of people, you will find it difficult, maybe impossible, to be consistently faithful to God and His call. You simply won’t be esteemed by everyone, and attempting to be is an effort in futility. It’s okay that not everyone likes you. Really.

  1. Because you failed to meet expectations (reasonable or not), early fans sometimes become later critics, and that’s okay too. You’re never going to keep everybody happy all of the time.

So what can you do?

In the words of Brennan Manning, “Be who you is or you is who you ain’t!” Today, to the fullest extent possible, be who God created you to be. Be in Christ. Be real. Be true to yourself if you want to be true to others.

Of course we need to grow. Without a doubt, there are plenty of character issues that need to be addressed. I’m not suggesting that you or I just wallow in the wastelands of idiocy.

But if you are not comfortable in your own skin and accepting of who you are today, right now, then you’re destined to be a grumpy, bitter, and depressed soul.

For some, my current mental, physical, or spiritual condition may be intolerable, and they don’t like me.

It’s okay. It is what it is. I am what I am.

I’m no Jesus, and even He was despised and rejected. Why should you or I expect to be loved, accepted, or liked by everyone?

Bottom line: to live uncontrolled by the need to be liked by all is liberating and the path to abiding joy.

Live free today.

“Jesus did not fully trust them.

He knew what people are like.

He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people are like.

He already knew why people do what they do.”

John 2:24-25  (NIRV)

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16 Responses to Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

  1. Awesome message Kurt. I really appreciated this message. Going to get to my sons for them and their children to read. God Bless You, have an awesome day. I am in AZ for a couple of days.

  2. I grew up as a people-pleaser, and as time went on, I almost lost my soul in the process. Thank God for the rescue!
    No, we can never be liked by all, nor can we fit the bill for all. We must be ourselves, the selves God created us to be.
    Thanks for this inspiration, Kurt!
    Blessings!

  3. I like your blog. I believe I remember one of your sermons from years ago where you said that 10% of our acquaintances do not like us.

  4. I wouldn’t know anything about not liking you, because I do like you. You’re just so darn likable. I figure if there’s somebody out there that doesn’t like me (and I know there are one or two out there), then they are clearly in error and I forgive them their mistakes. 🙂

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

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An old friend, Richard, recently called me. He used to live in town and attend my church. For the past seven years or so, he’s been a member of a large church in Phoenix.

We were catching up and reminiscing about old friends when he said to me, “I had coffee with my current men’s pastor yesterday, and he told me some honest things about his marriage and about something stupid he said to his wife.”

I chimed in, “That’s cool!”

He awkwardly paused, and then said with a confused tone, “How is that cool?”

“It’s cool that your pastor owned his stuff and that he’s being real with you. It’s the people who try to hide and deny their sins that worry me.”

Bob said, “I guess I expected the guy pastoring men to be . . . well . . . to be more spiritually mature.”

Without hesitation, I reminded Bob of the many times he heard me tell stories of my idiocy. I also told him we all walk with a limp, and none of us is without a soul blemish or two (or twenty).

On this side of eternity, the reality we don’t like to admit, but must, is that we all fall short of perfection.

We say things that hurt.

We do things that offend.

We think things we don’t want to think.

We go places in our hearts that are dark and terribly inconsistent with who we are in Christ.

If you can relate, then welcome to the human race.

Yes, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Of course, we should be growing. The plan is for us to mature in our faith and to sin less.

But most of us miss the marks of purity and perfection on a fairly regular basis—pastors included.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly forty years. I’ve pastored small churches and a big church. I’ve been on large church staffs. I’ve also been close to quite a few mega-church pastors over the years.

I can assure you of this: every pastor is fractured, and some more than you might imagine.

But as someone once pointed out, it is our fractures that allow God’s light in and out of our souls.

Because I am broken, I am humbled, and God delights to work with the humble (James 4:6).

Because I am fractured, I am relatable, and people want to connect with a person who is authentic and true.

By the way, Paul, the great missionary and author of most of the New Testament, boasted about his weaknesses.

In another recent blog, I mentioned my new favorite book, People of the Second Chance. If I could afford it, I would buy a copy of this encouraging book for all of my family and friends. It’s that good!

In the book, Mike Foster says, “We don’t need to hide our flaws. We need to own them. We need to ditch perfectionism and own our imperfections. The simple truth is this: perfection is impossible. It’s not attainable. You will never, ever be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human, and they help us relate to each other. Don’t seek perfection. Seek goodness. Wonderful, messy, love-saturated goodness.”

Foster goes on to write, “Nobody feels more pressure to be perfect than the person in the pulpit.”

Wow. When I grow up, I want to write like Mike!

Let me be clear; not for a second am I suggesting we just wallow in our weaknesses. Of course, holiness matters. I never want to use my human condition of imperfection as an excuse to keep sinning.

However . . .

I will sin.

I will fail.

I am broken.

But . . .

I am growing.

I am free from shame.

I am loved.

When we come to this place of peace despite our imperfections, we find it much easier to love ourselves, to live free of fear, and to love others as we are loved. Grace is grown here.

Yes, your pastor is broken, and it’s okay; you are too.

Welcome to the fellowship of the fractured.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts,

 but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars

containing this great treasure.

This makes it clear that our

great power is from God,

not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

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10 Responses to Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

  1. Thank you Kurt. Thus is just what I needed right now. What an awesome feeling to know that you’re not alone in being imperfect and to know that we can keep being loved and able to always keep going forward. Amen!

    • I love what Steven Furtick wrote in (Un)Qualified, “God knows everything about you–including the ugly parts, the broken parts, the dysfunctional parts–yet he still believes in you. He still has a future and a hope for you.”
      Glad you were encouraged today, Mari. You are loved!

  2. That common saying of You are never truly alone…it MEANS something when a person you like or look up to shows/talks about their broken parts…it really doesn’t hit home that you are NOT alone in whatever hardship going on in your life until it’s relatable with someone else. THIS is why I really like your blog… it CONSTANTLY reminds me we ALL just want love & to be loved no matter what.

  3. Thanks for the great post. What is the best way of learning, seems to me it comes from failing. I would assume learning to be pure love would require the infinite grace of God plus a lot of failure, or recognition of failure on our part, part of our learning experience. Looking forward to your next blog and sermon. Love in Christ to you.

  4. Yes, we are all broken vessels, but we can shine God’s light through the cracks.
    Thank you for your honesty and candidness here, Kurt! It’s certainly a message we all need to hear.
    Blessings!

Jesus at the Bus Station (Busted By Love)

Jesus at the Bus Station (Busted By Love)

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I was downtown last week, and to avoid the cold, I went through our local bus transit center on my way to get a cup of hot coffee. Many cities have stations like this, and they often are filled with the poor, the homeless, and lots of street kids.

Apparently, the loitering laws aren’t enforced in a public place designed for people supposedly waiting for a bus.

I’ll be honest; my first thought was, “Wow. This place is just a little bit scary.” On a bench an older guy was sitting by himself and having a conversation—with himself. There was a scraggy-looking woman with a cart full of who-knows-what, and she smelled so bad I choked.

Several rough-looking teens were glued to their cell phones listening to something, and when one of them looked up at me, I could see the hopelessness in his eyes. Another emaciated young woman, probably a meth-addict, stood staring out a window.

That’s when another thought hit me, and this one was far godlier, “I’m pretty sure Jesus would hang out here, a lot, and He wouldn’t be scared or put off by anyone.”

Those I labeled losers, Jesus labeled love.

Busted.

It’s funny how a change in my perspective brought about a significant change in my attitude. And attitude is one of the most important choices any of us can make.

In an instant I switched from concern for myself to compassion for others. The people in that transit building didn’t change, but I did.

Why?

Because I started to see the poor and the disenfranchised there as humans who are profoundly loved by the Father. Interestingly, these were the people Jesus felt the most comfortable with, and the lowly and impoverished always felt accepted by Him.

Of course, I know what the Word says about the poor. I understand our call to be generous, kind, and Christ-like. Good grief, I’ve taught about compassion for the marginalized many times.

But there’s nothing quite like a walk through a bus station, on my way to spend nearly four bucks on a cup of coffee, to force me to a profound realization.

Jesus didn’t just talk about the poor—He talked to them.

Jesus didn’t just teach about love—He loved the unlovely.

Recently, in my new favorite book, People of the Second Chance, I read this quote by the author and monk Thomas Merton, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. What we are asked to do is to love.”

Obviously, I still have a long way to go.

Maybe I should go on a bus.

When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled,

the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.

Although they cannot repay you,

you will be repaid at the

resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:13-14 (NIV)

 

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13 Responses to Jesus at the Bus Station (Busted By Love)

  1. I had the opportunity to ride the bus for ~6 months last year and I loved every minute of it. Everyday I was challenged to try and talk to someone at that same stop.

    I’m hoping things work for me to hop on the ole’ STA again this year.

  2. Being in truck stops is a similar experience Kurt. Actually being on the road among drivers challenges me to have grace.

  3. It’s amazing how God can open our eyes to see things from a new, and more compassionate, perspective. I’ll definitely look up Thomas Merton’s book, too!
    Blessings, Kurt!

  4. In current society situations it IS very hard for myself personally to take that step.. while “I” know the poor & helpless & addicts are all around us…it’s just so VERY hard to not think about personal safety & emotional safety when helping others… I get defeated so quickly because there never is an absolute solution to this epidemic… but not doing anything is not a godly Christian(?) attitude/answer either..

    • Thank you for being so honest, Kelly. I know it’s fear that holds us back. I also know that not being like Jesus because of our fear isn’t the answer either. Wisdom is good (I would never want my wife to enter into a dark alley to interact with a drug addict), but love is still our call (she could talk to a homeless man at the bus station where security guards are always present). Pray for me and I’ll be praying for you. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Thankful for My Enemies?

Thankful for My Enemies?

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In one twenty-four-hour period, I ran into two families who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time we had been friends. These encounters weren’t the first time I’ve seen these people, but, ironically, my personal devotion that day had been from Luke 6 about loving our enemies.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has a way of dealing with my heart. If I know anything (and sometimes I wonder if I do), I know that God is far more committed to my character than He is to my comfort.

The good news—I didn’t feel anger or hate toward these people. I wasn’t anxious or afraid. But I did feel pain and the angst of loss.

Tossing and turning in bed last night, I said out loud, “God, how am I to deal with this situation and these people? I’ve asked them to forgive me, and I’ve forgiven them. I don’t know what else to do!”

He whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”

thankful-water-2

Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.

You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.

Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. (Did someone just whistle?) But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.

Thankfulness in all circumstances does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. Thankful in but not always thankful for is good theology.

So God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain and despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, my enemies, is just stupid!”

The heavens were silent.

“Okay, God, why?”

Then it hit me.

I can be thankful for my enemies because of the way God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son. (You might want to go back and read that last line again.)

  • My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely even as God has loved me.

  • thankful-picMy enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.

  • My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule.

  • My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.

By the way, all of the above can be found in Luke 6 (you should click on this link and read verses 22-36).

Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?

Because our enemies help us to grow.

be-thankful-3

Being thankful for those who hate me changes my fear about them or my frustration with them into a radically different perspective.

My enemy is a gift. A gift I can be thankful for.

Didn’t see that one coming, but I’m glad I did.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil,

because of the Son of Man.

 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

because great is your reward in heaven.

For that is how their ancestors

treated the prophets.

Luke 6: 22-23

 

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12 Responses to Thankful for My Enemies?

  1. Kurt … Outstanding insight. It hurts when God starts chipping away from us those things that don’t look like Jesus.

    I’m a slow learner unfortunately.

    Then there are those precious times I’ve perceived someone to be against me and I had the wrong messages floating around my gray matter.

    Ron

  2. Wow. The line “God is more interested in my character than my comfort” really stood out & spoke to me!
    Hard stuff but God told me years ago not only to forgive but to bless.

  3. I’m right there right now and it’s been hard to come to church feeling the shame. How can God and his people love me when one of my closest family members and family have chosen to disowned and reject me for the rest of my life? Your messages have been a comfort to me. I’ve grown more through this experience so I have to be thankful for this. I still pray for reconciliation, but it’s healing to hear that I’m not alone in this experience.

    • Hi Judy, it’s hard not to believe the lies we are told (and sometimes tell ourselves)… I’m so sorry for the relational conflict you’re experiencing with your family. Know I am praying for you right now. Know too…you are loved…no matter what. Blessings.

  4. Hi Kurt,
    This post brings to my remembrance of Proverbs 27:
    17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    When we take the mindset behind this verse, and apply it to any enemies that we face instead of friends, I believe that spiritual growth or maturity is the end result. Well, at least to a certain extent.

    Also, weaker tempered iron is sharpened by a harder tempered iron. The one being sharpened, wouldn’t overcome the one that’s sharpening it. There may be a blog post in that somewhere…

    Great post and very informative!
    God bless,
    Brian Reynolds

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