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  • Writer's pictureMartin Sanders

Updating the Narrative of your Life

Welcome back to Global Perspectives. This week’s topic is “updating” -- Updating your view of God, updating the narrative of your life and updating your view of others. This is a follow-up to a series of Painting God in the Portrait of Your Life, and Your Life from God’s Perspective. Now I want to update both of those and add to it your view of others.

It's time for an update!

We update a lot of things in our lives. We update resumes, portfolios, wardrobes and overall look, kitchens, appliances, technology. We have a framework of updating. But what happens when you fail to update your view of yourself?

Listen to the phrases you use about yourself or that others use. Phrases start with:

“I always…”

"I was…”

“I am…”

“I used to”

“I used to be…”

“I never could…”

“I’m not good at…”

A few of these may be valid and true, but several of them are not. They are outdated and need to be updated.

As a part of leadership development and now running the doctoral program, assessments are a key part to helping people see what they’re like and update their view of themselves. One of the challenges of using assessments is to help people understand themselves without defining themselves. People who are new at assessments or interacted with one or two that they liked will say things like “According to this assessment, I am…” and without sounding too professorial, I have to say that, actually, it simply gives your preference. It doesn’t define you. It’s not the hard-wiring of your brain. That would only be seen in clinical personality profiles. I’m pretty sure you haven’t taken those. The assessments you’ve likely taken just give your preferences. Those can always be updated, and some should so that you don’t get stuck in one particular mode or aspect in life.

When people work with assessments and seek to get them updated, we look for things where the views are outdated. I have a really good female friend who always refers to when she came to New York as a “petite model”. That was 25 years ago, and she has taken on amazing capacity of life these days. However, there’s still something in her head that says she’s not what she used to be and that bothers her. We have too many conversations about that, and it’s time for a definitive update coming soon.

When we update, sometimes we have to raise the bar, and sometimes we need to sometimes lower it because things have changed. We must do an honest assessment and sometimes it is a simple as seeing what we are becoming; not what we wished we could be, but what we actually are. There’s always one exception though to this updating, whether it’s people you know, or people in a movie or show. You never get to say, “I was a Marine.” Apparently once you’re a Marine, you’re always a Marine, and that’s quite clear. You can never say “I used to be a Marine”. I think there are several aspects in life where we can do the same thing. “This is the best of who I am; not who I was, or who I will be.” But it requires an honest assessment and an update in our view of our own life and the narratives we tell.

I also want to take time to cover updating your view on others to see what they’ve actually become. Small towns are notorious for telling stories about people multiple decades after an event. They simply don’t update their view of each other! It’s said in New England that after 25 years, you are still considered a newcomer. Having done work in churches on every continent, it is quite fascinating that people to a church are still “new” even after a decade. Many people have moved away from home for education or work, and they’ve gone on; their lives have changed, developed and redeveloped. They report that it is sometimes hard to go back home to family, especially family that stays in one place, because they say their world hasn’t changed a lot. Routines are quite similar, same friends, same people. If you’ve moved away and your life has grown, developed, changed, it is hard to go back home because the people at home tell stories about you not as you are now, but how they remember you. I have had lawyers, bishops, and professors say, “When I go back home, they tell the stories of the stupid thing I did in high school. I barely remember that, but to them it’s like it was yesterday, and still defines me.”

One of the unique examples of this is in one of the narratives of Jesus in Luke 7. I don’t know what the writer who created the headings was thinking about, but it simply says, “Jesus and the Sinful Woman”. I laugh on one hand and feel sorry for the woman on the other. Here we are, more than 2000 years later, and as the story unfolds there’s a woman who had a dramatic life change but is still called “the sinful woman”. I’ve taught on this passage numerous times, and I talk about what it’s like to update your view on other people, and I’ve said, “She was known in the town as ‘one of those’.” You don’t even have to define it. When you say that somebody is one of those, your face changes, your tone of your voice changes. There’s a slight bit of judgement and disdain. She was one of those. We haven't updated our view of her. As we update, go back to see where God is in the portrait of your life, and take a look at your life from God’s perspective. It’s always essential to update both your view of you, and your view of others.

I’m currently in Northern Ireland, and I’m interacting in this two-week period with authors from Canada, Ireland, England, and Germany. They have been fascinated by this concept of updating. I apparently just referenced it off hand and everyone has asked more about it, mentioning that this needs to be something that is written more about. Updating actually is quite important, but it’s just a challenge to do it. So let’s talk about how one updates now and in the days to come.

One of my next blogs will be how do you update your view of people you’re in a relationship with—your partner, of your social standing and connection with other people, and within family structures and children.

May you have a sense that your life can be updated on a significant scale and begin to take the next steps to do that.

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