In a session with my personal life coach this week, I found myself expressing disappointment in the behavior of others. What’s the matter with people? Why can’t they just be nice, for goodness sake?! Sometimes the lack of health and straight-up courtesy displayed by those who should know better (pastors, teachers, leaders, Christians, etc.) just astounds me.
“Why in the world would that disappoint you?” (She’s a straight-up kind of gal, that coach of mine.) This led us into a conversation regarding setting yourself up for disappointment, when you already know the emotional condition of the one you're dealing with - hoping for a desired response, when you’re aware they’re probably not capable of such.
This led me to pondering my own responsibility to seek out personal health and wholeness, and how that looks in my life – the necessity, the time, effort and honesty required – as in my journey I have discovered that both self-awareness and vulnerability are non-negotiables in leading, serving and loving well.
It seems the vast majority of our population avoids this practice, honestly believing that they are well-attuned to their inner-selves. It is estimated that 95% of individuals claim to be self-aware, when in truth only 10-15% actually are. These statistics are based on years of research from psychologist Tasha Eurich. “On a good day, 80 percent of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves,” Eurich claims. That statement makes me both laugh and cringe. Oh, Lord, I hope I’m in the 20%!
What is it about introspection and self-awareness that scares the beegeebies out of people? Are we afraid that exposure of any weaknesses will result in self-loathing, self-disappointment and self-condemnation, plummeting us into an inescapable pit? Is it just too painful?
Many misconceive that vulnerability, which is required to be truly self-aware, is a weakness, when the opposite is actually true. The fear of discovering we are less than perfect, causes us to run, when in truth, shedding this lie brings greater life and freedom spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even physically.
Vulnerability being indicative of strength; the risk of exposure being overridden by the promise of freedom; the fear of pain being trampled by the promise of intimacy with God, is perfectly displayed in the cry of King David’s heart in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This powerful king possessed a self-awareness that he was in need of God’s transformation. His heart wasn’t pure, and only God could make it otherwise.
David knew he wasn’t perfect – that his spirit was weak and only God could make it steadfast. The word “steadfast” in this passage doesn't merely describe the type of strength we muster up when we need a bit of courage to get through the day or tackle a challenge. Rather, it describes a courage and strength that is “erect”, made to stand up straight, firm, and established - unshakeable. David was asking for a heart that would be full of virtue, not yielded to temptation, able to carry out holy resolutions, and steadfast in the service of God. In making this request, David completely exposed himself in the strength and power of vulnerability.
But he doesn’t stop there. In Psalm 139:23-24, he further requests, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Although wickedness surrounded him, David knew wickedness could also be lurking in his own heart. If he was going to point the finger at others, he knew he had to also point it at himself, not allowing the evil of others to excuse him from looking within. This level of humility, accompanied with the desire to be one pure of heart and mind, resulted in an acute self-awareness, resulting in greater strength and freedom.
But in seeking self-awareness, where does one begin?
Start by asking the question, “How can I seek a greater level of self-awareness?” This can be a catalyst in increased honesty with both yourself and God.
You are then ready to...
1) ACCEPT THAT SELF-AWARENESS AND VULNERABILITY WILL BE A CHALLENGE! Both are sobering and revealing. It can also be extremely inconvenient! Change will be required. It is a life-long journey.
2) KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. What is your desired end result? What do you want God to do in you through this?
3) MAKE PEACE WITH WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU’RE NOT. We’re not perfect – never have been and never will be. But find safety in knowing God never condemns – He only lovingly convicts. There’s a big difference! He'll help you become the person both He and you desire you to be.
4) ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Be brave and ask yourself the difficult questions that you’ve previously avoided. Why did I react that way? Do I need inner healing? Who do I need to forgive? What is my motivation? Is it a right motivation? What do I need to change?
5) MAKE IT A TEAM EFFORT. Seek truth from emotionally healthy individuals who know and love you best. Give them permission to be honest. Ask them lots of questions. Their answers can be painful to hear – but it can result in great growth!
Self-awareness and vulnerability can come with a high price tag, but undoubtedly it’s currency well spent! If you desire to be more self-aware and healthy, I welcome you to the journey. It’s a great one, full of twists, turns, surprises. I promises you won’t regret it.