Every person I know can list at least three traits about themselves that they love. I can name three with relative ease. I’m funny, smart, and strong. Chances are, others who know me would agree with my assessment of myself. Likewise, every person can also draft an extensive list of things they dislike about themselves. For me, my list is short–only because I’m more forgiving of my shortcomings. I’m impatient with negative people. I’m impatient with those who exult themselves. I’m impatient with those who play the part of martyr. So suffice it to say, I’m impatient, and the Negative Nancys, the Exulted, and the Martyrs out there will read this assessment and agree in unison with every item on the list. They know me so well in that regard, but I’m willing to wager that they aren’t so willing to acknowledge my other traits. It’s so easy to point out the speck in someone else’s eye even though there is a plank in yours (Matthew 7:5).
What I’ve found is that we don’t truly know ourselves that well. We only know ourselves from a couple of perspectives — what we believe to be true and what others see and believe to be true. Now, think about that for a minute as you read the following descriptions/levels of knowing oneself:
- Arena – This is an open area. These are qualities that we know we possess, and others know we possess them too.
- Blind Spots – These are traits that we don’t yet realize that we possess; others see these qualities–they’re sometimes good and sometimes bad.
- Closet – These are things that we hide. Perhaps we’re ashamed of these traits. We know they exist, but others aren’t aware.
- Dark – No one knows about these. You don’t even know you possess these traits; neither does anyone else.
(Taken from Dr. Anderson’s sermon at Bridgeway Community Church)
In my building, I’m one of four appointed leaders in a large middle school. Together we are strong, and I’m so grateful for my team. We’re honest with each other about where our strengths lie, and we feel safe expressing what we know to be our weaknesses. Every person should have a team like this one. Likewise, we all need a partner or friend with whom we can share our vulnerabilities and have so-called courageous conversations. I’m blessed to have at least one friend in my building who can lovingly reveal my blind spots to me, and I take what she says as gospel because I’m a leader who strives to become better with each experience. I reflect throughout each day and adjust my practices as needed. My decisions are always focused on what’s best for kids and teachers. It’s a balancing act though — trying to respect teachers and address students’ needs at the same time. If I make a good decision, it’s like making a game-winning slam dunk at the buzzer. If I make a bad one, it’s like missing that slam dunk at the buzzer.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. ~John Maxwell
I say all this mainly to say that what you see isn’t always what you get. Perception isn’t always reality. Unlike Beyonce, who exults herself in a song entitled “I Woke Up Like This,” I didn’t wake up like this. I rolled out of bed, fell on my knees, and thanked God for my life and the chance to be obedient one more time. I also asked him to help me be patient with those who cause me such angst. That’s a tall order because that also means I must beg him to bridle my tongue and fix my eyes on him as I listen intently to concerns while blocking out the negativity. Trust me, I know my limitations, but with God as my partner in all this, there’s hope for me and for you.
Here’s my weekly challenge: As you seek to know yourself better each day, take the time to reflect on your WHY. I’m clear on mine. I work as an educator because I was called to do it. I will continue to press toward the mark. As you seek to know yourself, partner with those who will lovingly reveal your blind spots to you. This revelation will be hard to accept, and it may temporarily break you and cause you pain, but draw from that pain and grow. Something beautiful can come from your brokenness.
Finally, spend some time getting to know the only one who truly knows you — Our Creator. He alone can help you clean out those things that are in your Closet. He alone can shine a light on what’s in those Dark places. One thing I know for sure is that he will lovingly shine his light on your heart and reveal things to you slowly, in stages, and in his time.