An Open Response to Michael Hyatt

An Open Response to Michael Hyatt

You never know what will happen in the Twitter-verse. Wednesday, after reading a blog by former CEO of Nelson Publishing, Michael Hyatt, I offered a brief critique by way of a tweet.  Hyatt, who is great about interacting with his readers, actually responded to my tweet with a question. Being limited to 140 characters on Twitter, I would like to offer my response to him in this blog. It would be quite an honor for Mr. Hyatt to read and respond!

To begin, I would first like to say how thankful I am for Michael Hyatt.  He is a devoted Christ-follower who for months, has encouraged and enlightened me by his leadership insights and the way he points to helpful resources to equip leaders.  If someone were to ask me which blogs to follow, Hyatt would definitely be in my top 3.  Today’s blog was characteristically full of practical advise, yet upon my reading of it, I couldn’t help but feel that it was incomplete.

Hyatt’s blog, entitled “7 Steps to Becoming a Happy Person Others Want to be Around” addressed the issue of complaining.  Hyatt, after unpacking the dangers of complaining, gives some steps that  he suggests will reverse patterns of negativity.  After challenging the reader to become self-aware and assessing his or her needs, he claims that the next step is the decision to change.  He says:

“Complaining is a habit.  And like all bad habits, change begins when you own your behavior and make a decision to change… It will take conscious effort at first, but it will become automatic over time.  You can start today.”

Then Hyatt, giving the example of seeing change in his daily exercise when he decided he was an athlete, challenges the reader to shift his or her identity.  He says:

“What if you said to yourself, I am a positive, encouraging person? How would your behavior change?”

These two sections became the most concerning to me.  Something seemed to be missing.  When I tweeted about the concept of change without repentance, Mr. Hyatt tweeted back and asked, “How do you define “repentance”? From the Greek, metanoia— ‘to change one’s mind.’”

My definition of repentance, along with my definition of complaining, has everything to do with my concern about his post.  I am concerned with Hyatt’s characterization of complaining as merely a habit. The Apostle Paul commands the readers in his letter to the Philippians, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” (Phil 2:14-15, NLT).  In context, Paul seems to place complaining in a category over against living as a bright light in a world of darkness.  Perhaps Hyatt believes this too, and doesn’t see a distinction between sin and habit.  But certainly we can make a distinction between complaining and the bad habit of losing your car keys.

Concerning the definition of repentance, I agree with Mr. Hyatt.  The term means to change one’s mind.  We must not miss two important aspects of repentance however, that seem to be missing from his post.

First, repentance is unto God.  Do we offend other people when we complain and set a negative tone in the workplace or home?  Certainly!  But even more, we offend God.  God seems to be missing from Hyatt’s post altogether.  When David brought his sin before the Lord, he said, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).  David recognized that his sin wasn’t merely a bad habit that had to be managed through a process, but an offense primarily against the Holy One.

Second, repentance is a gift of God.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul says about it:

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2Tim. 2:23-26, NIV, emphasis mine)

And again:

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV, emphasis mine)

The biblical teaching on true change emphasizes faith in the Lord, who gives his Spirit to change us.  While there’s no denying that the word picture for “repentance” that we see in Scripture is “to change one’s mind,” it is not simply deciding to be different.  Repentance is always associated with changing one’s mind and one’s life through dependence upon God.

All of this being said, I do recognize that many of Hyatt’s readers are not Christ-followers.  Many of them have no conceptual understanding of repentance, faith, and sin, because they have no connection to God and his Word. Perhaps the practical advise that Hyatt gives will help modify some behavior to an extent, though it will fall short of the inward change that must take place to bring about true change.  I do appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with this great leader, and hope to help all of us think through what it takes to change.

How have you seen successful change from sinful patterns in your own life?  How would you walk someone through the process of change?


9 thoughts on “An Open Response to Michael Hyatt

  1. Great post, Dane. I found Michael’s post helpful overall, however, you’re right on the money: a change of heart has to precede a change in attitude. I very much appreciated your tone in offering this corrective. Very gentle and respectful. Well done.

  2. Dane, I think your last paragraph sums it up quite well. Michael writes for a mixed audience, and this particular post in question was not designed with an explicit God-focus. It’s the kind of message that we can say is “true as far as it goes.” In this case, the post remained mainly on the earthly and horizontal level – but once you evaluate complaining on the vertical, Christ-centered axis, everything you’ve said about biblical repentance comes into play. A complaining posture certainly won’t gain us favor with other people, and in light of the tenth commandment, also shows that we’re out of step with God.

  3. What a wonderful thing it is when Christians can come together and have a discussion like this! One that does not attack and does not tear people down! Thank you for your maturity! I agree with you that Michael Hyatt’s Blog is in my top three as well. He is a great example (to me at least) of how to live your life. I loved the post you refer to so much I shared it with my boss this week. It is particularly meaningful to me because I used to be like the first man in the story. Up until a few months ago I had a very poor supervisor. He always seemed to bring people down, was not capable of leading and the entire workplace suffered. That situation resolved its self in due time. However, once it had I realized how much I had been moaning and complaining about life in general and work. I had let his negativity influence me! Since then I am back to my old cheerful self! I personally am thankful that God let me go through a season like that, because it taught me a very important lesson. One that I believe Hyatt points out in his blog post.

    In my opinion complaining can be both a habit and a sin. I define sin as what separates us from God. As you pointed out above, complaining offends others, and offends God by offending His children. Therefore it is a sin. And yes, sin should make us want to change our ways. Knowing you have sinned against God is a huge motivator for me! However, I believe it is also a habit because in my recent experience I found my self complaining even when my supervisor was on vacation. I had been complaining so long when he was around that I let it carry over to when he wasn’t around. I didn’t change until the situation permanently changed and I was able to see what I had become.

    The drift I get from Paul is that he is warning us about complaining, both because it is a sin, and because it keeps us from pointing to the cross. It is poor evangelism. What I also think can be poor evangelism is the over use of Biblical scripture and preaching. We’ve all seen them, the car that is covered in bumper stickers of the Roman Road, the guy with the megaphone at the top of the subway saying the end is near, etc. Do these attract people to Christ or push them away? I hope they attract people towards Him, but I know that for me personally, they almost turn me off to it. I think Christ central message is love. Love God, and love people. I think one of the best things we can do to let our light shine is simply love people where ever they are in their life. I say this to mean, maybe someone reading a Michael Hyatt Blog for the first time read this one, and that will lead to more, and the gentle use of Biblical verses in other blogs will help that individual the way that the Holy Spirit needs to work in their life. I’m not trying to pretend that I know what the Hold Spirit is doing, but I do think that perhaps if a Bible verse or mention of God was particularly needed in this post Hyatt would have felt that nudge and used one. I did a quick search of his blog for the word “Bible” and it yielded 760 results. That tells me I don’t think that Hyatt is afraid to point to Christ or refer to Him in his post.

    So, why then does this leave you with the feeling that it is incomplete? I know for me personally that when I get that sense it usually means I need to do some personal reflection and soul-searching. Why does it leave me that way? What deeper questions or thoughts do I have about it? etc… I just know that what it usually means for me.

    Michael, if you are reading this, that is a great post that could also tie into “The power of asking the right question.” That post has helped me shift on many occasions. Thank you both for being willing to lift each other up and share your message with the world. It takes guts to post things and allow your selves to be vulnerable.

  4. michaelhyatt says:

    Thanks, Dane. I really appreciate your respectful tone. This is a great example of disagreeing without becoming disagreeable.

    You may a valid point that is worthy of serious reflection.

    Thanks again.

  5. lance says:

    Seems like a long way to go with the concept of complaining. Taken from one passage that does not equate complaining with sin and yet placing in that category is like going all the way around the Cape of Good Hope to make your point.
    Complaining is not sin, but a poor choice of attitude. Looking for the bad and finding it versus looking for the good and finding it.
    I tend to think Dane is guilty of the same thing here. He is looking for over secularizing spiritual issues and that is what he finds.
    Be careful what you classify as sin. No need to add to an already extensive list.

    • dane hays says:

      Lance, when I thought about this post in the process of editing, I seriously thought, “Am I taking this too far? Is it really worth all this response?” But, I came to the conclusion that we have to be very careful who we are looking to when we are trying to change. In context, it really looks like Paul is trying to set complaining and a whole host of other attitudes over against the attitude of Christ– (“have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus”)–and there doesn’t seem to be a place for complaining in this pursuit. Thanks for posting!

  6. Duke Dillard says:

    Well said. I thought the same thing when I read that blog post, but I did not write anything because I could not figure out how to say it graciously enough. You did it better than I ever could. To his credit I found your post thanks to Michael Hyatt tweeting about it.

  7. Well, I’ll step into the discussion although much good has been said already. Both Michael’s post, your response, and his subsequent Twitter RT exemplify letting your “light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.”

    In my experience as a Christian leader, unfortunately, I have meet more negative people among people of faith than among those who are not. Maybe it’s something in the baptismal water. Don’t know. Maybe we find it easier to disguise it as a prayer request or behind a hushed tone of concern. The Israelites did alot of it. The disciples jumped in often. We do it all the time. Yet I have seen more non-believers than believers train themselves to think positively about whatever life sends their way. Their hearts have not been changed, it would seem, by Christ through faith and repentance. Yet they choose to be positive because it works. When truth is applied to reality, reality works better. Why? Because all truth is God’s truth. And God defines reality.

    So yes, I think an unbeliever can significantly change his outlook on life and cease to be a complainer by applying God’s wisdom principles to life. “As a man thinks…..” Unfortunately, her relationship with her Creator is still — at the core — unchanged. Likewise, a believer whose heart has been genuinely transformed by Christ can resist the sanctifying work of the Spirit, refusing to allow his mind to be transformed by Biblical truth [Think David?]. He can be in the correct relationship as God’s child because of his faith in the work of Christ on his behalf yet still be banging his head against the car door like a stubborn child because he refuses to follow the divine instructions for working the handle.

    And he’ll likely be complaining about the clarity of the instructions too.

    Thanks for the discourse. Keep up the good thoughts, Dane,

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