A few months ago, Devin and I had been approved for a church plant here in Richmond, Virginia. While we’re incredibly excited about the future of transformation and change in people’s lives in Richmond—we’re also hyper-cognizant of the challenges ahead of us. As I’m raising support, both financially and with people’s willingness to join the cause, I have been reflecting on my own leadership and shortcomings. There is something about a risk that makes you more self-aware of all the things that make you—you. It has been painful to reflect on the areas in my life that are less than savory, but it has also been helpful to see growth opportunities. For so long I have allowed myself to be comfortable with whom I had become without taking a critical look at the areas of my personality that need work. It is within the comfort of life that we become complacent, but complacency does little to innovate and transform. Perhaps a good example of this is when you are living in a messy room for long enough you stop seeing the filth and chaos around you. It is part of your daily reality and it becomes difficult to see the dirt in the room—those dust bunnies that are under the bed and on the baseboard, so to speak. So is true of the least healthy places of our lives, we become unworried or indifferent to it. Perhaps you’re like me and you have allowed the mess to build up and become ordinary. I really believe we move closer to who God has designed us to be when we take a strong look at the unhealthy sides of our personality.
So, I’ve been reflecting on my life and health, and I’ve come up with three areas that I really struggle.
(Side note: It is really scary to be vulnerable, but I believe pastors should be a bit more vulnerable with their own fears, doubts, and shortcomings)
- I lack clear organization, which leads to others feeling devalued and overlooked.
- I get frustrated too quickly and alienate people from helping me. I really need to work on harnessing my quick instinct for an emotional response better.
- I let other’s opinions dictate my life and how I perceive my calling to pastoral ministry. I worry far too much about what others think of me.
There you have it, the most deplorable areas of my recent self-discovery and “mental spring fall cleaning”.
This has been an important exercise for me, because I read an article recently that suggested the most influential leaders ranked high on a self-awareness scale that had been created by Cornell University (yes I’m a nerd). I really believe that self-awareness can lead us to betterment, just better people to be around and better people to interact with. I want to be the best version of myself for my family, my calling, and my leadership. If you’re wondering how I got to a place of self-awareness, I’ll share three quick tips to self-discovery that helped me.
The first step was acknowledging that the room of “self” is a wreck and needed to be cleaned up. I likened this to walking around in a messy room and allowing the clutter to hurt me, similar to when you accidentally walk on a Lego with bare feet. It really hurts (honestly, why do they design those things to feel like glass?) Our clutter can hurt those closest to us and ultimately be detrimental to ourselves. It is not the job of others to clean your room; it is our job to care for ourselves. I found that just acknowledging that there were areas of my life that needed to be fixed help, I just didn’t know where to start or what needed to be cleaned first.
So I didn’t know where to start and it’s difficult to see all the mess of my own room, I decided to enlist two people I trust and I asked them for help. I had invited my friend over for a beer and I asked my wife to join us. After chatting about life for a few minutes, I dropped the bomb I had feared for so long. I asked them a simple, but important question, “how do you see me as a leader, and what are three areas I need growth in?” I was waiting for the explosion to happen, I braced emotionally and, much to my dismay, they lovingly responded each in their own way with areas that I needed to grow. I am so grateful for their honesty, but I’m even more thankful for the way they loved me so well through it. They were so gentle and caring with my emotions that it was impossible to not want to change for them. There was no explosion; in fact without my prompting they gave me three areas that I was healthy after sharing some growth opportunities. I highly recommend asking someone (or a few people) you trust about areas in your life that need to be tended. Create a safe space for them to offer their insight into your life without repercussions. This is essential for becoming self-aware from a perspective that is not your own. I will say this as a note, it is important to make sure you’re prepared emotionally and you might want to have some tissues available.
Once you have allowed space for others to share objectively about their perception of you, come up with some concrete ways you’re going to rectify the growth areas in your life. I call it refocusing. Refocusing is taking a step outside of your room and reentering with fresh eyes; it is with fresh eyes you are now able to see the areas in your life that are unhealthy and you can clearly take action. Maybe for you, it means having accountability, or something to remind you of your unhealthy tendencies. Whatever you do, write down some sort of solution and work towards it. Give yourself some grace; lasting transformation never takes place overnight. However, do work towards change. For some of us, it might mean going through this process several times in order to see all the areas of clutter in your life. However, I want to reiterate be patient with yourself and know that you’re helping yourself be the best version of “YOU” possible.
Take the risk, it’ll be worth it.