January Joy Challenge #1: Step Outside Yourself

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Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? You just want to crawl up in a hole and stay there for the day, but life continues on and the kids still need to go to soccer practice and the milk is all gone, so you have to go to the store, and it just happens to be on the day you have a mandatory meeting at work or church.

I handle those awful days two different ways with two very different outcomes.

The first way is to just keep completely to myself. I don’t look at anyone, I don’t acknowledge the clerk that is checking me out, and I sit in my car, far away from people while I wait for soccer practice to finish. I say very little, if anything, while sitting in a meeting. I play sad music and, quite honestly, just plain out sulk.

The fruit of all that ungodly self-love is: nothing. Well, that is, if you don’t count the terrible example I am setting for my kids and the lack of love I am showing to the people around me. I guess there is fruit, but it certainly isn’t good.

The second way I have handled days like this is to just stop thinking about myself. On those days, on God’s strength alone, I climb out of my self-created pit to say hello to the store clerk and ask her about her day. Most times, she will look up pleasantly surprised that someone cared to ask. On those days, I am able to step outside my frustration and ask the customer service rep what the weather is like in Pakistan today. I am able to listen intently in my mandatory meeting and add some ideas. I will get out of my car and enjoy talking to other moms, building relationships, while we wait for the end of practice together. I usually feel so much better when I stop thinking about myself.

The fruit of this response is: a deep-down joy because I am doing the right thing, the opportunity to encourage or help someone, new or better relationships, and unexpected opportunities to tell others about Jesus, as well as setting a good and godly example.

And honestly, we don’t have to be having a bad day to be self-centered. Sometimes we are preoccupied or worried about something. Many times we are simply in a hurry. And, quite frankly, some of us are just in the habit of never thinking about someone else.

But here’s the problem: I truly believe that we cannot experience joy without stepping outside of ourselves by showing interests in the lives of others. Jesus set a good example for us when He did this with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Samaritans were hated by the Jews, but Jesus showed an interest in her life by talking with her and asking her questions about her life.

This interest in others is becoming rarer and rarer in our self-centered world. Have you ever run into an old friend or acquaintance and realize after the conversation is over that the whole conversation was about them? There was never even a hint of interest in your life? That is the world we live in.

If we can smile and kindly show interest in the lives of others, we will look different to the world around us. And, ironically, we will feel different, too.

So here’s the FIRST CHALLENGE: 

When you talk with someone this week, make a concentrated effort to smile and to ask them about themselves.

Treat the customer service rep from India and the store clerk at Wal-Mart like they are real people. Ask the elderly lady at church or the man that sits on the same bench every day when you are walking the dog about their lives. Show an interest in others and see if it doesn’t increase your joy.

Comments welcome! I would love to hear about how it goes :)

 

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10 thoughts on “January Joy Challenge #1: Step Outside Yourself”

  1. There was a clerk where I was shopping today who I overheard interacting with customers in a very caring way. When I checked out I told her how much I enjoy shopping at the store because of how sweet she is to everybody. Next I will try to find someone who’s not so cheery and ask them a question or two. Good challenge!

    1. Thanks for sharing that! Let me know if you run into a grumpy one that you can cheer up a little. I’d love to hear how it goes :) I didn’t feel like talking very much at the store this morning, but decided I’d better make sure I meet my own challenge and I was so glad I did! :)

  2. I talk to clerks at the stores I go to,and smile at people, it’s not about me it;s all about others. LOVE is what makes everything better. Praise the Lord for all He has done.

  3. My sister (at 40.5yrs) was called Home from the results of a genetic condition in April this year. I’ve been down this grief path before (my mother was called Home from same condition at 51yrs just 14 years ago). But I feel like I am really struggling to be joyful. I feel like you do, that the key is to not be self-absorbed. To put aside how much I miss my sister (as beloved as she was) and focus on other’s needs. This really is what the Lord did, isn’t it? I mean, He could have sulked from birth till the cross, but instead He sought to help others. Yes! Thanks for your post, had been searching your blog and this is it. My joy is unchanging, even in sorrow, but I can leave the sulks and be His hands and feet – He MUST receive glory (and thee is none in my sulks!)

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