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One of the people I follow on Twitter posted the following Tweet the other day:

My 3rd grader teases my 1st grader, calls him a “little kid.” He forgets that two years ago, he was that same little kid.

Growth is a Process

This tweet struck a chord with me because I think it touches on a problem many of us have: We forget that growth is a process—for ourselves and others.

Any serious growth or change effort takes time. It’s a process that is neither quick nor easy. There’s usually a lot of struggle. Sometimes it feels like progress is two steps forward and one step backward. This is true whether the growth involves something like stopping a bad habit, implementing a healthy discipline, or changing your religious or political views.

We Forget the Process

Sometimes when we have changed something in our lives, we “forget” the change involved a long, tough process. We can judge other people harshly for being in the same place we were last year, or even last week.

Getting in Shape

Here are a couple examples from my own life: When I was a junior in high school, I decided to lose weight and get in shape. It was a really difficult and long process, but I finally did it. After I lost weight, however, I was judgmental toward others who were struggling with their weight. How quickly I could condemn someone who was in the same place I was at just one year ago!

Changing My Mind about Gay Marriage

Another example: I went to graduate school in Counseling Psychology, and one of the things I struggled with was navigating values that were different from values I was taught growing up. One example was gay marriage. I had been taught that being gay was a sin, but I began to question that belief and change my mind during graduate school. Later on, I struggled to understand and empathize with others who believed being gay was a sin. I forgot that just a few years ago, I was wrestling with the same issue!

3 Lessons From the Growth Process

Growth is a process. This is true both for ourselves and for others. I think there are 3 lessons we can take from this truth:

  1. Take heart when change is difficult. It can be discouraging when a change effort doesn’t bear fruit right away. I remember a month after starting to exercise and watch my diet, I didn’t see any change. I got discouraged and felt like quitting. But most change efforts take a lot of time and effort. When you’re struggling, take heart. I know it’s tough. But you have to stick with it if you want to succeed.
  2. Remember. We tend to have short memories. Once we have changed something in our life, it’s the new normal. We forget how hard it was before. It’s important to remember the process. Remembering does two good things for us. First, it helps us in subsequent change efforts. We remember how hard it was, AND that we stuck with it and were successful. Because of this, we might be able to do it again in a new area. Second, remembering helps us to understand and empathize with others who are struggling.
  3. Understand and empathize with othersGrowth is a process for others as well. Try not to get frustrated with others when they aren’t moving as fast as you would like. Everyone has their own process and their own pace. Instead, try to understand where they are coming from and what they are feeling. Don’t rush them to get to a certain place. Instead, let them control the pace and ask how you can support them along the way.

Discussion

What is one thing you are struggling to change right now? Try to give yourself grace and remember that growth is a process. What is one thing you have changed yourself, but are frustrated with others who aren’t in the same place yet? How could you engage others with understanding and empathy?

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