Previously, I wrote about applying the TQM management philosophy to our personal growth and relationship development. In essence, this means seeing maturity as emerging from a process of acting, evaluating our successes and failures, and then making adjustments to improve our behavior as a result of the evaluation. This cycle of, “Doing, Reviewing, and Improving,” involves us in a routine of continuous improvement that advances our sanctification and relational competence. Rather than dismissing this concept as a Pelegan self-effort scheme, I believe it is the natural way we develop any skill and is perfectly legitimate to understand how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God is at work in us as we cooperate with His design patterns, including the way He has made us to learn and grow. It’s no use trusting God for a crop if you won’t plant the seeds.
But what does it mean to review our successes and failures? It simply means to assess how well we have handled life and what the overall quality of our relationships is like. Has our management of circumstances, responsibilities, and resources been effective in producing good? Have our relationships been strengthened and is our communion with others deepening? If so, what worked? If not, why not? We are trying to determine which attitudes, behaviors, and actions are more likely to stimulate maturity and increase relational blessing.
The whole reason for doing an evaluation is to enable us to improve our behavior in the next round of circumstances and contact with others. The focus is preparation for the future, not to wallow in regrets. We only look at the past in order to be informed for the future. If you have ever driven a car you know that the important thing to look at is the view through the windshield, not the image in the rear view mirror. The rear view mirror serves a limited purpose, but the real show is ahead of us. That’s why the windshield is big and the rear view mirror is small. Our attention is to be forward looking and evaluation is useful only to the degree that it assists us for what is to come.
A helpful method for doing a review is to ask ourselves after an event, encounter, or time period (like the end of the day) what we liked best about it and what we could do better next time. I learned a acronym from a business seminar that captures this method: LBNT – Liked Best, Next Time. Listing what we liked best about what happened helps us to take encouragement in the things that were good and reinforces the behaviors that produced them. It also opens our mind to God’s goodness and strengthens our faith. Itemizing what we would like to do differently next time keeps our focus forward and gives us insight how to adjust our behavior for the next go around.
Evaluating our past need not become an exercise in beating ourselves up or a referendum on our value. To err is human and so is learning from our errors. Healthy introspection can be the path toward more happiness and a better relationship with God and others, in other words, a path of “salvation,” which is what biblical salvation ultimately aims for.