In his book called Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality, renowned consultant, coach, author and psychologist Henry Cloud speaks about the secure leader who is able to ask those around him or her what it's like to be "on the other end of me." In other words, what is it like to experience me from your perspective?
It is, of course, a dangerous question if we are insecure about ourselves - which we all are - and too worried about what people think about us - which we often are. But it's an important spiritual formation question. If we cannot hold up the mirror to the selves we embody, it becomes difficult to pursue the sometimes painful disciplines necessary to be re-formed and re-shaped. And who better to ask than those around us who know us the best?
Harvard Business Review (not known for spiritual formation content) had an article in 2012 entitled "You Are (Probably) Wrong About You" by Halvorson which said something I found interesting:
...your own ratings of your personality traits — for instance, how open-minded, conscientious, or impulsive you are — correlate with the impressions of other people (who know you well) at around .40. In other words, how you see yourself and how other people see you are only very modestly correlated.
Only very modestly correlated. Translation? The people around us see us very differently than we see ourselves. If we truly and honestly asked the people around us, "Do you see what I see?" the answer 60% of the time would be "no." I guess the reality is that either a) we don't know ourselves very well at all or b) we are giving off a very different impression of ourselves than we think. We are either woefully unselfaware or we are hypocrites (in the Greek sense... mask wearers in a dramatic scene.) I'm not sure I want to choose either door A or B. Is there a door C?
In November and December, pastor Andy Stanley posted two episodes in his Leadership Podcast entitled "The Art of Inviting Feedback" part 1 and part 2 in which he talks about the idea of leaders inviting the feedback of their peers, their direct reports, and their bosses. He reflects on the reasons why we don't venture into this area of personal critique and what we lose when we don't. I find it interesting in my own life how easy it is to criticize an action, idea, or character trait of someone else while at the same time ignoring the flaws in my own character. This is exactly what Jesus seems to be getting at in Matthew 7:1-5:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
Good question, Jesus. Why do I look at the speck in someone else's eye but pay no attention to the plank in my own? What's that about? What am I protecting, and wouldn't I be better suited to face the character flaws that need reformation if I was asking my closest friends and family what those are and trusted them to help me? One of the reasons, I think, is because we can be cruel to one another. We constantly feel judged and criticized and measured and weighed and found wanting, so we don't think we can bare anymore. We've grown up with critical friends or family members who find and point out every flaw, leaving us naturally and compulsively defensive, guarding against the next possible attack. But that's because we're on the defensive. What might happen if in humility we willingly submitted ourselves to the people we know love us who would only hurt us to help us? Do we have those people in our lives we can trust with our open vulnerability, and how might our character be formed (beformed?) for the better if they help us see the other side of ourselves?
Janus is the ancient Roman God of transitions, and he has two faces, one facing the future and one facing the past. BTW, January is named after him... because it is a transition from the past year to a new year. There might be a different way to think about being two-faced that's not bad. We are all like Janus, with a face from the past and a face that heads into the future. What if we were able to see the other side of ourselves, and leave that self in the past to pursue transformation towards becoming (or beforming... I'm inventing a new word!) the person we want to be in the future?
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