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)
“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?