North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did a series called Climate Change. (I listen to podcasts during my drive to and from Nashville throughout the week.) Basically, the point is that “the most critical climate” may not be what you observe outside your window, but the one “created inside a room when you walk into it.” The climate is the condition that prevails in general, or over a long period of time. Every person has a unique “climate” that she/he carries, and that climate can impact… and even predict… relationships. So if someone’s climate is full of bitterness, frustration, pessimism and pride, relationships will probably be rocky. Other people will more than likely be on edge or overwhelmed around those individuals. Others may grow more frustrated themselves and pour on/reinforce negativity, or they may choose to distance themselves from the bitter pessimist altogether because of her/his innate knack for darkening the room. Know anyone like that? Know someone that instantly creates an emotional or even behavioral response within you as soon as they walk through the door… as soon as you hear their voice?
It’s easy to point out the flaws and frustrations in other people. But it’s vital from time to time that we take a moment to look inward. What if I am that person? What if my climate instantly causes other people to withdraw… to be overwhelmed and frustrated… to feel uncomfortable… to close up and not fully share or be themselves… The first sermon of the series challenged people to ask some honest, close friends, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The speaker challenged that if you would be willing to ask the question, be prepared for both positive and negative. If you give others room to offer constructive criticism, you better be open to receiving it. And if the point is to use it as an opportunity to grow and not argue, listen to feedback without defensiveness. I’ll be honest, it was a tough question to ask… it wasn’t necessarily anything that surprised me, but more of confirmed some weaknesses that I was afraid to face. I really only asked Tony, but I hope to ask a few more friends in the coming months (feedback from him was enough to last me a while, haha). So I’ll keep asking… keep working… keep striving to become a person who is seen as safe, loving, accepting, open, generous, hard working, gentle… it will require some pruning (John 15:2), but I believe it will be well worth it as I work toward a climate change of my own.