Are Others Holding You Back?

Do you feel that other people are holding you back and stopping you from reaching your full potential? If so, then you are not alone. You have something in common with Homer Simpson.

Homer had a dream. It was as real to him as anyone else’s ambition to start a business, be a great parent, a fantastic spouse, a better Christian, or to walk in their calling. Homer knew those around the dinner table did not share that dream with him. They were a negative influence holding him back from doing what God created him to do. Homer knew that to soar in life he had to get rid of those toxic people who were negatively affecting him and holding him back. So, he did what many people recommend under such circumstances. He ditched those who were holding him back. “That’s it!” Homer said, “You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college.”

Does this sound familiar? It should. Homer was merely following the advice that many people give. People often advise, “Kick him to the curb. He’s no good for you,” or, “Get rid of them. They’re only holding you back.” I am not saying that such advice is always bad because there are people out there who it is wise to avoid, depending on the situation. However, I am trying to get away from the extreme cases and hit home at the fact that often such advice may be the wrong advice.

“You people have stood in my way long enough.”

The problem is that we compartmentalize people. We put those we think God’s called us to bless in one group, while we put those who we think are holding us back in another. Our basis for doing so is entirely objective because we categorize them according to our experience with the person, our thoughts, and our feelings. We put up with those we think God’s called us to bless but stay clear of those we think are holding us back.

We say to those who we categorize as holding us back some things like:

“You’re stopping me from soaring, so I’m getting rid of my excess baggage by leaving you behind.”

“My goal is living a blessed life in Christ, but you’re stopping my blessing. Therefore, I’m avoiding you.”

“You’re hindering me from reaching the full potential of my calling. I’m staying away from you.”

“I want to impact the lives of others for Christ, but you’re hindering me, so hit the road, jack.”

Or in the words of Homer Simpson, “That’s it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college.”

Upon examination, we see that such statements have a strong individualistic element running through them. It is all about my goal, my dream, my vision, my purpose, my calling, what God’s called me to do. It is all about me and myself. However, when it comes to soaring in life and fulfilling God’s call, there is no such thing as my calling. There is only God’s calling.

“I’m going to clown college.”

1st Timothy 1.9 (NKJV) says,

“[God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

There are a few things we can learn from this verse.

1. It is God’s calling, not my calling

Our individual calling may belong to us in the sense that no other Christian shares it. However, it belongs to God in the sense that he provided it “according to His own purpose.” This explains why the verse refers to it as a “holy calling,” in that something that is holy is consecrated to God and therefore belongs to him.

2. Our calling is holy

The term “Holy calling” shows that God has consecrated our calling. It implies that because our call is holy, whether our calling is as a parent, a spouse, an entrepreneur, or a minister, it is precious and important to God.

3. It is eternal and part of a larger plan

Because God gave each one of us our calling “in Christ Jesus before time began,” although our calling may evolve and change over time, it is eternal and part of a larger plan.

4. Our calling does not depend on what we do

Since our calling is part of a larger plan, we cannot walk in it by improvisation. This is what the verse means when it says it is “not according to our works.” Therefore, our call does not depend on our efforts, what we have done, or necessarily where our skill set and experience lie.

5. Others cannot hold us back 

Because our calling does not depend on what we do or do not do, it infers that those people we choose to exclude or include in our lives have little impact on us fulfilling our calling. This is because the responsibility for it coming to pass is “not according to our works.” Its fulfillment has nothing to do with what we do or do not do.

6. God produces your calling “according to His own purpose and grace.”

In simpler terms, God has given each one of us a purpose and the grace is available to fulfill that purpose. Because it depends on his grace it means he also accepts the responsibility for it coming to pass.

I find comfort in all the above because it places the responsibility of a Christian fulfilling their calling firmly on God. Obviously, we cannot walk in disobedience and live sinful lives, but if we are sincere in our faith, it does not matter who is in our lives. The responsibility is on God to make sure we walk in the calling he has planned for us. It is up to him to make sure that we contribute to his Kingdom in a way in which we are individually effective.

Changing the focus

A different perspective arises when we move our focus away from my calling, my vision, my dream, and place it on God’s calling. We no longer look at people objectively and see them as millstones around our neck or hellions who only bring out our worst. Instead, we see how the Holy Spirit is moving in them, in the situation, and through us. We see that the difficult people in our life are not obstacles we need to remove. They are conduits for God to effectively work through and in us.

We must be careful not take the advice of our friends and advisors at face value. We must ask the Lord what we need to do if we think others are impeding our calling. He may tell us to avoid the person, and if he does then we must obey him. However, God may let us see how our experiences with that person are forming us into a better person. He may tell us to endure and submit to the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. 

Life is not as easy as cutting people lose because we think they are bad influences or holding us back. If we ditch everybody who we think is holding us back there will be very few people in our lives for us to impact and move forward with. This means that the goal, calling, or vision, that we thought we had will never happen because our calling is about other people. Even more so, it is about God being glorified through us.