Do you have an agenda?
I saw a post the other day which really had a great message to it. I don't know the author, so I cannot give credit, but here is how I remember it: "To make a difference in someone's life, you don't have to be smart, or rich, or perfectly beautiful, or even perfect. All you have to do is simply care." Now, I probably don't have that perfectly right, but you get the idea. To be the type of person others really want to be around, all we have to do is truly care about those individuals and begin to show it in our actions!
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first. (Philippians 2:3-4 VOICE)
We almost always have an "agenda" in life, don't we? One of the things mom has the hardest thing with is not knowing what I am going to do the next day. When I have a day off, she will want to know what I have planned for the day. When I simply say, "I don't know", she has a really hard time with that one because she thinks there should be some structure to the day! It took me a while to get to this point, but I don't need to plan every minute of every day anymore. I can be content to just let the day evolve - especially when it is one of my "off days". If I start the laundry on Saturday or Sunday, it makes no never mind - as long as we have clean clothes for the week!
When the "agendas" we make in life are designed to "get something" out of the situation, or from another as a result of our efforts, those may not be the most noble of agendas! They may even border on a little selfish! Now, lest I meddle too much on this one, let me just say I am guilty of the same things you are on occasion, so I am not pointing fingers! We all have some times in life where we have our "own agendas" which we expect others to allow to have "priority". We think they are the most important things - our needs outweigh the needs of another. Sorry to burst everyone's bubble here, but my needs, or your needs, may not be the most significant needs of the moment. In fact, when we finally lay down our own agendas, we might just find the needs which really matter most are right there in front of us.
Extending love to others might just begin by each of us laying down our agendas long enough to hear the words which are spoken and those which are carefully left out! Often the most telling part of conversation is not in what is said, but what is "carefully left unsaid". When people have their own agendas, we often find this tactic used more than when we are able to let go of those agendas. People with their own agendas want to manipulate the situation around to the place their needs become foremost and the attention paid is toward them, not the others in the relationship.
Think about it a little - we all have become accustomed to people having some kind of agenda just a little bit different than our own. I am used to people having their "own agendas" as I am a nurse. People don't get sick on a convenient schedule for my life - they manage to crash at the most inappropriate times - messing up "my agenda" as they do! I am also used to people having their "own agendas" as I am a mother. Kids don't think about how their current crisis will impact your schedule, do they? They simply announce the crisis of the hour and hope you are able to pick up the pieces! I am used to people having their "own agendas" as I am... You answer that one!
To truly care about others, one needs to begin to look at what their "agendas" are really saying about them. Maybe their "agenda" doesn't display they are really thinking about others, so be the kind of person who shows them you can rise above their selfishness. Maybe their "agenda" reveals an ulterior motive in their "planning" which is not "so noble", so rather than letting it evolve into an argument or big bru-ha-ha, let them know you are "on to them" in a loving way, but don't compromise your values or the truth to cater to their "plans". Learning to care means we lay down our selfish agendas, are open to the true needs of others, and allowing ourselves to be extended even when it is not always the most comfortable thing for us!
When we begin to "care", we begin to pay attention. We find ourselves being cautious, but open. There are times when we need to hold back a little until we see where another's "agenda" may be leading. That isn't a lack of caring, it is wisdom. When it is within our power to bless others, we need to be following that "agenda" rather than always seeking the blessings for ourselves. I think that is what Paul may have had in mind. To truly begin to live out the example of Christ, we don't become doormats for others to walk over, but we actively look for ways to show them we are willing to invest in their lives, laying down our own agendas long enough to actually do so! Just sayin!