July 13, 2020
Physical exercise is one of the things I miss during this quarantine. I remember getting into boxing about three years ago. After a few months of regularly hitting the gym, I mustered the courage to ask my trainer about my progress.
“Coach, how am I doing?”
“You’ve improved, Sir, but you still have a long way to go.”
I felt insulted. I had been expecting a more affirming compliment. After all, it had been months since I started my training. Surely I would have made some major improvements by then, right? Then I realized: Knowing the basics of boxing doesn’t automatically make me a boxer. While boxing is just a hobby for me, it is a way of life for a boxer. Being a boxer is who they are, not just something they do.
Sadly, too many times I measure my own growth and maturity by the skills I learn, not the kind of person I have become.
I think that at some point in our lives, we tend to become so obsessed about getting things done that we neglect who we become in the process. The pursuit of our goals and dreams may lead to success, but ultimately it’s not about what we become in terms of our career, but about who we become as a person.
In our desire to grow as a person, we sometimes tend to focus on what we must do instead of who we must become.
We try to learn and apply the best hacks in relating well with people instead of becoming a person who genuinely loves and cares for people.
We scramble to change our study habits in order to pass our subjects instead of becoming a person who genuinely desires to learn.
We try new ways to stay motivated at work instead of becoming a person who grows in his sense of calling and purpose daily.
We do not always need a new program, a new technique, or a new approach to doing things. Most of the time, what we need is a new heart and a new perspective.
We become too consumed with the “how” of growth and maturity without first having clear answers to these important questions:
What is true growth and maturity?
Why do we want to grow and mature?
During the first few months of the quarantine, many different articles about how to stay productive started surfacing online: Learn a new skill. Develop new habits. Start a new routine. Earn money while at home.
These articles mean well, and many people have actually succeeded at being productive during the quarantine. But what about those who didn’t succeed, though they tried?
It’s good to aspire to be productive; it’s part of being a good steward of our time, energy, and resources. Productivity is also one of the best expressions of our purpose and calling in life.
But if we are not careful, we might start to think that productivity is the ultimate measure of our growth and maturity as a person.
True growth and maturity is about the development of our character, not just the improvement of our skills.
The word “character” came from a Greek word that actually means “to sharpen or to engrave.” A rusty tool or a dull axe needs to go through a tedious process in order to be sharpened.
The same is true with our character. Character development happens not just one time, but throughout our lifetime. We grow and mature over time, not overnight.
And if we want our growth and maturity to really matter in life, we need to start from within.
When the apostle Paul was talking about spiritual growth and maturity, he gave a clear starting point to everyone’s inner spiritual growth:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
1 Corinthians 3:6
Paul planted the seed of the gospel in the hearts of new believers, and Apollos nurtured the seed. But in the end, it was God who made the seed grow in the hearts of the people.
True and lasting growth comes from God. And because it comes from God, we can be sure that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
We always hear that the goal of our existence is to live a better life by becoming a better version of ourselves.
I used to think that the point of being productive was so that I could be better at the things I do. I wanted to manage my time and plan better, because my ultimate goal was to live a better life.
I was mistaken.
Don’t get me wrong—wanting to live a better life is not a bad thing. Actually, when we grow in character, we naturally desire to grow in our skills, and we position ourselves for success and a shot at a better life.
But don’t just desire growth for the sake of improving the quality of your life. Pursue the ultimate reason:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18
The goal is not to have a better life, but to experience a completely renewed life. The moment we put our faith in Christ, He starts to grow us from one degree of glory to another.
True growth is not about becoming a better version of ourselves, but about becoming more and more like Jesus—the epitome of perfect humanity.
To a world that puts so much attention on self-improvement, humility looks like just another means to gain promotion or to have a good reputation. But for God, humility is the only means to experience the blessing of true and lasting growth.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .
1 Peter 5:6
As a leader, I thought that my growth and maturity were shown by how much clarity I could bring in times of uncertainty. I thought that I was measured by how detailed my plans were in times of uncertainty.
But I realized that true growth is also about being comfortable with my own limitations. Maturity is shown by how secure I am with the fact that I don’t always have it all figured out. I don’t always have a solution to all of our problems—and that’s fine.
The path to true growth and maturity is never easy. Grace doesn’t make the path to Christlikeness “easy;” it makes it possible.
So whenever you feel discouraged or frustrated with yourself, remember that your growth cannot always be measured by how much work you’ve done, but by how much you’ve grown in character.