Personal growth can be a double-edged sword. Yes, we may become effective, efficient, and productive, but there is a dark side to the pursuit of personal growth.
First, personal growth advocates can be overly self-focused. In fact, they may be so focused on improving themselves that they don’t have time to think about anyone else. They are so determined to be better time managers, more productive, better at prioritizing, more self-aware, that in the end, they are only aware of themselves. Others, who are less ambitious, get lost in the wake of their progress.
Second, personal growth advocates can become very self-righteous. Usually, they will be socially aware enough to be subtle about this. Still, the implication from all their progress is that they are superior, more driven, better than those weaklings who have settled for mediocrity.
Third, personal growth often focuses too much on the exteriors of life: becoming organized, balanced, having better habits. The deeper, longer work of having a transformed heart and a renovated mind, and a winsome spirit gets left in the wake of getting things done more efficiently.
Obviously, these dangers do not need to be true for those, like me, who are committed to personal growth. Ideally, personal growth, spiritual depth, and quality relationships go hand in hand. A person who is growing should also be appealing relationally, someone we want to emulate, someone who is highly approachable.
Herein lies one of the most effective tests of the value of our personal growth efforts: Are our relationships getting better? Does our spouse or best friend see us as more loving? Are we a better father or mother? Are our closest friendships growing in depth and intimacy? Are we kinder and more accepting? If these things are not happening, then our efforts may be in vain.
Jesus said that His disciples will be known by their love for one another. Paul said that if we don’t have love, then the most extraordinary faith or the most impactful deeds are empty. Growing in our love for God and our love for one another is always the top goal, the greatest commandment. Personal growth efforts may help us eliminate distractions, pay attention to what is essential, and change our destructive habits – all of which can help our relationships – or personal growth can alienate us from those whom we deem are less serious about life. How sad if we are among those who grow personally but wither relationally! This just makes us … effective Pharisees.
Question: Is your personal growth improving your relationships with those you love?