Joel Osteen — Accept People For Who They Are
I want to talk to you today about accepting people for who they are. When we get into a relationship with someone, it's easy to try to make them into who we want them to be, especially our spouse, our children, the people that are close to us.
But one of the best things I've learned is God didn't bring people into my life to make them just like me. God made us different on purpose. Different personalities, different strengths, different looks, we're all at different maturity levels.
The mistake we make too often is we try to fit people into our mold. It's like we got them on our potter's wheel, and we're trying to work out the lumps, and get rid of what we don't like, the problem with this is we are not the potter, God is. God is the one that's making and molding people.
Really, we can't change anyone. We can encourage them, we can pray for them, we can lead by example, but only God can truly change people, and when someone doesn't have our same strengths, and we're working overtime trying to make them just like us, all that does this frustrates us, bring stress and tension into the relationship. You've got to give people room to be who God made them to be. If God wanted us to all look alike, think alike, have the same strengths, the same personalities, he would have made us that way.
Think about this, the same God that made the butterfly made the locust. The same God that made the poodle made the bulldog. Same God that made the horse made the mule, and the same God that me made my brother Paul. God likes variety. I'm not looking at him.
You may be trying to change someone that doesn't have your strengths, your kind of personality, your goals, yet God made them like that on purpose. You're fighting against who they really are. This is what I used to do when we first got married, I tried to make her just like me. I thought, "What greater gift could I possibly give her than that"?
I'm very naive. My personality type is I'm very focused, very structured. I've got a plan and I'm going to stick with it. She's spontaneous, fun, outgoing, not rigid at all. She's incredibly smart, a hard worker, but she's not routine. She doesn't like to do the same thing over and over. Not me, I get up the same time every morning. Not 2 minutes variance, the exact same time. I eat the same things for breakfast, been doing it for 20 years. Go to my office at the exact same time.
I'm boring, but I am focused. That's one of my strengths. I used to think that it was my calling in life to try to make Victoria like me, and I had her on my potter's wheel. I thought I was supposed to make my strengths her strengths.
One day, it dawned on me, I had a revelation she doesn't want to be like me. That's not who she is. She likes being who God made her to be, just like I like being who God made me to be, and we're not supposed to go around looking down on people that don't have our same strengths. You'll enjoy your life a whole lot more if you let people off the hook and accept them for who they are. Because when we're always trying to change someone, there's this underlying tension.
It says, "There's something wrong with you. You're not like me, you're inferior". We may not say it out loud, but with our actions, it comes out subtly in how we treat people. But a mark of true maturity is you accept people just the way they are. You don't have the hidden agenda where, deep down, you're really trying to change them and make the way God made us is we are drawn to people that have strengths that are different than our own.
One reason I fell in love with Victoria, not just because she's beautiful, smart, and talented, but she's fun, outgoing, spontaneous. She's not stiff, not rigid. She has strengths that are different than mine. Yet we get with someone and we think, "Wow, I love your good qualities, but I want you to have my strengths as well". The truth is no person has it all. That's why the scripture talks about we have to make allowances for people's weaknesses.
What would happen if we all would start accepting the people God put in our life and not try to change them? Number one, we'd have better relationships, and number two, we wouldn't live frustrated, trying to make them into something that they're not.
We have this plant at home, it's kind of like an ivy. It's in this large pot, and it drapes over toward the ground. When we first God married at our townhouse, we had this same type and I took care of it, it was my project, made sure it had the right amount of sunlight, the right amount of water, and it had these thick, dark green leaves, very lush, very full, as healthy as can be, and if those leaves ever started turning to a lighter green, I knew it wasn't getting enough water, and I would water it more, and in no time they would be back well, in our backyard now, we have this same type of plant, but I could never get the leaves to look right.
They were always a little bit lighter green, almost on the verge of being yellow. So, I watered them like I did my last plant again and again, but didn't do any good, still light green leaves. Kind of puzzled by it, and I thought, "Maybe something is wrong with the soil," so I went down to the nursery and I picked up some fertilizer, and I gave that plant food day after day. I pampered this plant, I prayed over it, I sang to it, I told it I loved it.
I did everything I could, nothing helped. I thought, "Why can't I get this plant healthy? Why can't I get these leaves dark green"? Finally, I called the expert out, the man from the nursery. He looked at it and said, "Joel, this plant is as healthy as can be. There's nothing wrong with it". I said, "Well, why does it have light green leaves and not dark green"? He said, "This plant is a slight variation from the plant you had last time. The vines are the same size, same shape, they grow at the same rate. The only difference is one has dark green leaves and one has light green leaves".
Here I had spent months being frustrated, trying to make that plant into something that it was never designed to be. Too often, we think they're supposed to be a certain way. They looked the same, they come from the same family, but just like this plant, no matter how hard you try to fit them into that mold, it's not going to happen. It's not who God created them to be, and we're not supposed to go around trying to change everybody, and try to get them to be like their brother, their cousin, their relative. No, our job to accept people, to let them be who God created them to be. Don't spend your whole life trying to make someone have dark green leaves when God designed them to have light green leaves.