Accept people in different seasons of their lives

You’re a different person at different stages of your life.

Ten years ago, when I started working at my current church, I met a man named Bob (I’ll use that name because that was his name). He was a delightful man. He arrived early on Sunday mornings to help prepare the sanctuary for worship; he was friendly and engaging; he had a positive attitude. We had lunch together about every six months and developed a friendship. 

Several years ago Bob was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain tumor and died within four months. 

At his funeral, his brother, who was a pastor, spoke. I was shocked to hear him describe Bob as a difficult person to be around; he even said that family members might have had a hard time attending his funeral. 

After the funeral I emailed the brother and shared my dismay at how he had spoken poorly about Bob. After all, it was the man’s funeral. I’ll never forget his long and thorough reply. It taught me a valuable life-lesson. 

In his early years, Bob was, indeed, a very difficult person to be around. Through the years he had abused his family relationships; some of them were irreparably damaged. In his speech at the funeral, his brother was trying to help family members understand the complexities of the relationships and encourage them to forgive Bob, for their own peace of mind. 

His carefully worded email made sense. It helped me understand what he was trying to do at the funeral. He also affirmed my love and appreciation for Bob and taught me an important life-lesson by saying, “Don we all go through seasons of life. You met Bob later in life; he was different then. But don’t judge others who knew him in a different season.”

In a similar scenario, I once became friends with a man who had made major mistakes in the early days of his profession. Someone who was hurt by his mistakes derided me for starting a friendship with him and suggested that I disavow him and distance myself from him. Was I wrong in pursuing this relationship?

Here’s what I’ve learned. 

  • When we meet someone, accept him as he is at his current stage in life; don’t discount his life because of past mistakes. Hopefully, we’re all progressing and improving throughout our lives. We need acceptance and grace in every season.
  • Don’t judge someone who has disengaged from a relationship that was abusive or unhealthy because sometimes it’s best to sever an abusive relationship and cease all ties. (Though all of us should forgive our offenders, that doesn’t mean we must remain friends with them.) 

Here’s a parting thought: we all have a best friend during each stage of our lives; blessed is the person who has the same friend throughout all stages of life.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay? [/reminder]

12 Replies to “Accept people in different seasons of their lives”

  1. Great article! We all change through out our lives, the Seasons of Life, it’s difficult to stand in someone else’s shoes to see the many different reasons and varied circumstances others have experienced.

    Our attitudes will change, our jobs and where we live will change and due to forces beyond our control, each of us are impacted by all the events and situations thrown at us. Sometimes we handle them well and then in other situations we may be overwhelmed and negatively impacted.

    Thus jobs can be lost, financial affairs ruin our lives, etc. but if we could remember that Nothing is forever, except death and taxes.
    So don’t let temporary problems, or negative situations break our spirit because time will heal most problems, don’t ailienate your family or friends during those times when life is difficult, because your family and friends most often didn’t cause the problem. But those events and problems will pass heal themselves, so remember that losing your friends, family, integrity, honor and grace are far worse than dealing with what life may have thrown at you.

    There are things no one can take away from you, your education, reputation, integrity and salvation, so be thankful for what you have and let time heal the problems, that may come your way.

    A great fortune cookie that I received one day at lunch was as follows:
    ‘Friends are a Gift you give Yourself”

    So be kind, thoughtful and reach out and give yourself a Friend or keep the Friends you already have, they really don’t cost anything, except for some time to maintain those connections that result in Friendship throughout the Seasons of our Lives.

    Don, Thanks for another Great Article!

  2. What a wonderful article. Thank you for the time that spent on this.
    I love your ability to be open to hearing all sides of a situation and your optimism in all things.

  3. Don, I think this is perhaps your best article yet! Maybe because it is so pertinent to me. Where I see some of the difficulty with learning this lesson is what “season” I was in when the interaction occurred. If as a child, the impact of the relationship can have life long influence. A child cannot reason why a person behaves a certain way, they just know how they are made to feel at the time. As an adult I process those encounters very differently. This concept is something that every person experiences from both sides of the relationship and worthy of great examination. Thanks for stating the concept with such clarity. If you choose to do a series on this subject I think you’d have a large audience.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. You’re right-childhood events are very impactful and often hard to overcome. Thanks for playing an important part in Benjamin’s life several years ago. Don

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