Man, how cool. I’m here. Literally, standing on this baseball field, as a part of the Kansas City Royals organization. Oh crap. I need to change to a different stretch. Haha!
As I lock back in to the task at hand I can’t help but smile. A grin caused not just by my current situation, a dream job with my favorite childhood baseball team. This grin has been under construction throughout this entire life journey, and just recently I have gained a deeper understanding of how this wonderful construction has unfolded.
After spending time reflecting and journaling I have determined that there are 5 main concepts of personal growth that I’ve experienced. Before I share these 5 points I want to admit that I by no means have it all figured out! I know my life is still littered with flaws and imperfections but I am also confident I will continue to see growth in my life. I share this information not to glorify myself, but because I know it can provide value to some of y’all who are reading; and at the end of the day that it was I desire most.
Alright, let’s get it!
1. Growth is a Process
It’s not a mind blowing concept that growth takes time. We all know this. But knowing this is not the most important part of the process. Our focus should be on how we view the process itself. Success here starts with a mature vision of opportunity.
Recently, I have seen that maturity in its’ entirety is so much more than just improving how I act or how I talk to others. Making a conscious effort to remove immaturity from my life has changed how I view opportunity. This is huge. I now have a more focused and selfless attitude towards opportunity, which for me has been the key to experiencing personal growth. I’ll touch on the selfless aspect with more depth later on in this post, but gaining focus towards my view of opportunity can be attributed to a quote from the book Killing Lions by John Eldredge:
“Yes, of course there is a journey before you. But (that journey) has a destination: manhood - possessing a wisdom and strength that allows you to love a woman for a lifetime, be a great dad, lead a movement, rule a kingdom, and change the world.”
Personal growth as a result of aging is one thing, but growth with specific intentions on becoming a better man is entirely more impactful. This not only affects our current status but also our desires for the future. For example, right now I want to be the best strength and conditioning coach I can be. There are numerous ways I can become a better coach such as being mentored by other coaches, reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending conferences. But I believe that prioritizing my efforts on understanding what manhood actually is, what manhood means, and how I can grow as a man I will make more progress as a coach than I will from prioritizing any other resource. I believe this because coaching, at it’s core, is all about building relationships.
“Athletes don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This quote is so true. So while it is important that I continue to strive to expand my knowledge in coaching, and my craft at improving athletes’ performance, I can’t put that above growing into true manhood.
Switching my focus to becoming a better man does not only positively affect my ability to coach, but also gives me confidence for my future desires. If you remember the Killing Lions quote from above Eldredge alludes to this. Someday I desire to be a husband. Someday I desire to have children. And someday I desire to be a light for God’s Kingdom waaaay more than I am today.
With all of these in my mind my focus has narrowed. I know my actions, words, mindset, and desires today all affect my desires for the future. Becoming a better man today help be make a bigger impact as a coach. It will set me up to be a more loving and selfless husband in the future. It will set me up to be a more caring and responsible father. And it will allow me to make a bigger impact as a Christian.
2. Growth is Synonymous with Trial
We’ve all experienced our share of hardships. There is no avoiding trail in our lives, but I’ve learned that viewing hardships as an opportunity instead of an hindrance can lead to so many positive things, especially hope and peace. Scripture is littered with verses on this.
A lot of hardship comes from circumstances that are completely out of our control. These range from an inconvenience that throws your day out of whack, to having to let go of a relationship, to a tragical medical diagnosis. While this range is extremely large there are commonalities between all circumstances of hardship. One. God is still in control. Two. He is still worthy of our praise.
To praise God in the midst of hardship is always easier said than done, but we must keep the big picture in mind. A picture that God paints beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. The truth is that the war was won over 2,000 years ago.
When Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross an earthquake ravaged the earth, and the curtain was torn in two symbolizing the gates of heaven opening for all of mankind (Matthew 27:51). This is truth that never fades. Whether we are experiencing seasons of immense joy or times of severe pain and loss, the beauty of the Gospel still reigns. Knowing this we should never be found searching for hope.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.
When this truth becomes ingrained in how we view hardship we have no choice but to grow. This growth is powerful because it is full of trust, hope, and humility. While we experience hardships that are totally out of our control we can also suffer from hardships brought on by ourselves. This is where it gets tough because this is when our pride steps in.
If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time you have undoubtedly experienced a season filled with sin. As humans we have been ingrained with patterns of sin from the very beginning. Knowing that we are sinful by nature can help eliminate the feelings of shame and guilt post-sin, but we cannot use our sin as a crutch in our pursuit of Jesus.
The war against sin has won, but that doesn’t mean that sin is not still prevalent in our lives. We are active soldiers who have to fight the battle against sin every day. Paul elaborates in this when he encourages the Church of Ephesus to put on the armour of God so that we are able to withstand the schemes of satan (Ephesians 6:11). To win these battles we must let the strength of the Lord consume us and lead us in the fight. If we try to fight on our own we are destined to lose. The strength of the Lord is more than any of us can muster. Why would we not utilize His strength when He so kindly and freely offers it?
We want to believe that we have the capacity to withstand on our own. We want to fight, win, and give ourselves all the credit. To these thoughts we must die. We must take up our cross and trust in the strength of Jesus. To do so requires the utmost humility, which is so important that I made it a section of its own.
3. Growth Demands Humility
Late last summer I was very humbled. I was basically enlightened to all the areas that I lack as a coach. As tough as it was to hear about all my weakness it was also exciting. It meant that I had a lot of areas that I could improve in, thus meaning I had a lot of opportunity to grow as a coach.
I don’t think anybody enjoys being humbled. But I do think that everybody needs to get humbled. If my boss had not called me into his office and laid out all my weaknesses for me I would not have made the efforts to improve like I did. I was stuck in a cycle of contentment and I needed a wake up call. While I am still working on a lot of those weakness I can confidently say that I have made progress in all of them. I have grown. Because of that I am a better coach and I am able to make a bigger impact on the athletes I work with.
Humility is tough for men to grasp. I can say that because it’s been very true for me. It’s tough because us men are constantly bombarded with illusions of false masculinity. We are told/shown/encouraged that being manly means watching sports, hooking up with girls, drinking beer, going hunting, not asking for help, being tough (whatever that means), etc. There are a lot of other stereotypes I could put but I think you get the point.
Through this current growth process I’ve increased my understanding on what masculinity truly is. Eldredge states it beautifully in the book Wild at Heart. (Yes, I know I’m quoting him again. Big whoop. The dude’s a good author.) He explains, “at the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
Men, we are made in the image of God. Our Heavenly Father declares this just 27 verses into the Bible. Fun fact about God: He is not soft, boring, or lame. God is a warrior. God is wildly creative. God is romantic. As we strive to emulate these characteristics we will become more intimate in our relationship with God. Eldredge continues, “A man is never more a man than when he embraces an adventure beyond his control, or when he walks into a battle he isn’t sure of winning.”
For me personally, to be humbled is to relinquish control. As an extremely independent person this is not easy for me at all. When my eyes are opened to areas of my life that I’m weak in my first inclination is to attack those areas with reckless ambition. While I’m eager at first, my own strength eventually runs dry, and I find myself right back where I started. Masculinity is not fighting battles on your own. Masculinity is being able to step back and give God the reigns to your life, trusting that He is a warrior and that He will come through even in our toughest battles.
4. Growth is Selfless
Earlier I mentioned how important it was for me to realize that as I became a better coach my athletes would benefit more from working with me. Perceiving personal growth as a way to help others instead of solely helping myself has been crucial. It has helped me stay more consistent with my growth. While my progress as a coach reflects this I want to also talk about my progress in relationships, specifically with the ladies.
I want to touch on this topic because this might be the area of my life that I’ve seen the most growth in. Before I get into what I’ve learned recently I want to explain why this is so important to me.
When I was younger I constantly sought out attention from girls. In a lot of ways this defined my high school and college days. This was back before I became a Christ Follower. Back then I did not know that what I was pursuing was sin. I was simply just pursuing everything that my buddies and I talked about. Needless to say I was not sexually pure at all.
When I became a Christ Follower at age 22 my perspective on pursuing females completely changed. Before Jesus took control of my life I was pursuing females to get what they could offer me, primarily sexually. Now I’m not saying that’s the only thing I wanted. For the most part I would say I treated my past girlfriends very well. Never abused them physically or verbally. Went out of my way to treat them well. But bottom line if I was dating a girl, pursuing a girl, or simply “talking” to a girl I wanted the relationship to eventually get to the level of sexual activity.*
When I became a Christ Follower I realized how selfish this was. Instead of seeking a female for what I could offer her, I was seeking them for what they could offer me. Since that realization I have stopped “chasing” after girls and started pursuing them as selflessly as I can, and it has made an amazing difference in how I treat and understand women. I know see acts of chasing after girls as immature and, ultimately, damaging to the girl's’ view of herself.
Guys we have to understand that the females we’re dealing with have lots and lots of baggage. Most of them have either struggled in the past with low self worth, or the are currently still dealing with that. Most of them have been treated poorly by men at some point in their life. Whether that’s a broken relationship with their father, being bullied regarding their appearance, being cheated on by a past boyfriend, or potentially by being sexually assaulted. I could go on but the point is they have wounds, and as men we must be aware of these. We must make an effort to understand who they are, where they came from, and what they have experienced.
If we do not know these things we do not know what has shaped them into who they are now, and we will not be able to fully serve them or love them without that knowledge. Not only will this help a man pursue a woman, but it will also yield to more trust within the relationship. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable in these areas of life, but that courage will certainly lead to more growth.
To close out this section I want to bring it back to the main concept of selflessness. At the end of the day whatever I’m doing can either help prepare me to become a better Christian, man, coach, future husband, future father, etc. Or it can do the opposite. My personal growth can help me make a more profound impact on the lives of those who God surrounds me with. I believe that is what God intends for all of us!
*Sexual activity is such a weird phrase in the context of that sentence haha but honestly I didn’t know what else to put. Thanks for bearing with me and my awkward wording!
5. Growth Requires Initiative
In order to experience as much growth as I have God needed to open my eyes to the areas of my life that needed work. He revealed to me weak parts of me that were in dire need of transformation.
I knew God wanted more out of me. I knew that I was capable of giving God more. And I knew I was able to make a bigger impact for His kingdom.
This was the first step.
The next step was action.
I have taken action by understanding that my journey was a process, by understanding that hardships are unavoidable and that they are an amazing platform for growth, by realizing that I have many areas of weakness in my life and that I need to to work on them, and by understanding that my personal growth means I’ll be able to make a bigger impact in the lives of others. Honestly, the first step was the hard part. Living it out is easy because of how much joy it’s brings me and how I’ve been able to see that reflect in the people I’m surrounded by.
What does taking action look like? Following Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
That’s it. It really is that simple.
I do, however, want to be perfectly clear: I am not perfect at all. I still fail. I still have moments where I lose patience in the process and try to do it all on my own instead of leaning on the guidance of God. I still have times where I want to avoid the hurt from hardships in my life. I still have flashes of weakness where I am overcome with sinful thoughts or actions. I still struggle with pride and selfishness.
Christ showed His love for me, for that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me! (Romans 5:8)
The Gospel is love at its purest. While I know I’m still lacking in so many ways I have the utmost confidence that God will continue to cultivate me into a man after His own heart, and He will continue to use me in amazing and awesome ways.
Thanks for reading guys. I know it was a long post so I'm thankful you stuck it out and made it all the way through. If you have any stories you'd like to share about how you've grown I'd love to hear them! That kind of stuff fires me up!