Fine Lines: Point the Way vs In the Way

Welcome back to Fine Lines [1], the coaching niche about character –
evidenced by a nature and disposition being refined to resemble Christ.

Today’s Fine Lines: Point the Way vs In the Way is a place on the bubble many of us are far too familiar with than we sometimes care to admit. I think that sometimes we don’t have a clue that we’re doing one (getting in the way) while we think we’re doing the other (pointing the way). This calls for growing discernment.

At the cross-point of this fine line is the act of growing up.

There are three counseling terms as biblical in pattern as they are in the practical outworking of life:

Internalize. Individuate. Independent.

What do they have to do with fine lines? Let’s unpack them ever so briefly, and I do mean brief.


To internalize something is to ingest it. Babies know this one really well. Everything goes in their mouth! Eventually the picky eaters separate themselves from the Mikeys who’ll eat anything, who separate themselves from the ones of more discriminating palate. Some go healthy or junk food, while others live on a self-imposed starvation diet. The hungry long to be filled. What is ingested becomes internalized.

It’s not only food that we ingest and internalize. Attitudes, beliefs, opinions and ways of relating are as much a daily diet as the food we put in our mouths. Eventually, it all makes its way to our ‘internal’ zone. As we process, aware or not, we make it our ownthe meaning of internalize. What goes in, comes out.


When a two-year-old (who is determined to detach from being attached to mom at the hip!) successfully defines me, a healthy albeit worn-out parent has cause for a little celebration. They both enjoy a taste of freedom! Now fast forward to the teen years where individuation best takes place.

To Individuate is to try to figure out what you believe and who you are. It’s another level of defining me. Two-year-old tantrums were one thing. Some discipline, a big hug and a nap could minister to their needs. But at 16, 18, 20 years of age, they have cars or friends with cars and can get away. Attempts to discipline land hard, hugs are few and far between, and naps are for the bored. Which leads to –


One of the best ways to realize that someone has been in the process of growing up is when they become independent. They are no longer subject to control by others and show a desire for freedom, no longer requiring or relying on something else. No longer looking to others for one’s opinions or how they should conduct themselves. What they become independent to is largely governed by what they internalized and how well they individuated.

As individuals we internalize, hopefully individuate, and preferably become independent. We may go on to have families of our own or serve in parent-style relationships though childless. Healthy human nature is to care for, nurture, teach, pass on, and impact others’ lives. Whether one or a multitude, there is an engrained longing to point the way to someone else. Which brings us to today’s fine line.

Point the Way vs In the Way

Where bonds are formed the longing to influence another comes naturally. We can all give examples of good and not so good influence – both in our growing up process and in observing others’ development. It’s often after the fact that we can see the evidence of what was internalized through the years.

However, if we would help and not hinder, we must resist the urge to get in the way when our clear duty and calling has been to point the way. To put it even more plainly,

Don’t rob a teenager or an adult of their own enterprise of learning.

As believers, part of our walk of faith is to trust the deposit of the Lord in our children. The same goes for spiritual children – those with whom we invest ourselves and our time, be it brief or a long season.

There are times to help and support, and there are times to step back and not put yourself in the way.

This calls for growing discernment and probably some more growing up – till we take our last breath.

If we find ourselves holding our breath over others, remember this. They have to learn by living their life, just as we do. If that throws you into panic, trusting God’s a choice.

Remain teachable and learn to point the way instead of getting in the way.

~ Nancy

 [1]Fine Lines – Character Coaching based on Hebrews 4:12

Free Photo courtesy of Unsplash / Ales Krivec

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  1. Patricia Hertlein :

    Great posting. You always give food for thought. Thanks for your effort and your diligence, and loving those you come in contact with.

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