Sometimes the Truth (About Yourself) Hurts

One time, I told my friend Steve that I was going to ask God to humble me.  Steve said, “I wouldn’t do that.  Scripture says to humble yourself.  You don’t want God to have to do it.”

Along that vein, about a year ago, I embarked on a self-imposed, humbling journey in self-discovery in which I did interviews with five different people, asking questions that elicited mostly-negative responses about ways I could improve my impact on others.

During the interviews, I took copious notes and followed up for clarification where needed.  Included in my questions were inquiries into what the person found distasteful about the way I live my life, how it felt to be on the other side of my personality, what they would change about me if they were given the opportunity, and, at the end, what was the last ten percent they were holding back.

Quite frankly, after wrapping up those interviews, I spent the next two weeks feeling mildly depressed.  Each interview was unique, but the same themes arose again and again, the same weaknesses highlighted, the same frustrations voiced by a co-worker, a close friend, a pastor, my workout buddy, and my wife.

The interviews were helpful in making me seriously consider, among many other things, the impact my somewhat bold and gregarious approach can have on those who are more subdued or sensitive.  But more importantly, it showed me that there’s a difference in merely being self-conscious and actually being self-aware, that being truly self-aware requires regular, sometimes-painful input from others.

Simply being self-conscious is really just one step away from being totally oblivious to your impact on others.   You just assume you know how it feels to be on the other end of your personality; you do a shoddy job of covering it up; and you conveniently never have hear it from the people who actually have to live with you.

Almost every time I have shared my interview experience with others, they have said, “I don’t think I could do that.”  And who would want to?  The truth hurts and makes us feel embarrassed that we don’t have it all together; it reminds us how we’re not fooling anyone, that we really are the immature individuals we thought we’d done such a good job of hiding.

But if we choose to swerve all over the highway, intentionally ignoring the mirrors which tell us we’re leaving a wake of havoc behind us, we run a very serious risk of doing damage we never wanted to do, of hurting people and never knowing it.

We can choose to be oblivious, self-conscious, or self-aware.  Being oblivious will leave you with a false sense of superiority. Being self-conscious will drive you to cover up your weaknesses out of insecurity. But true self-awareness will open the floodgates of humility and drive you to your knees in prayer.

If only we would all to come to our senses and allow people to speak painful words of correction to us.  Choosing to do so can be unpleasant, but if my personal experience is any indicator, humbling ourselves in this way can move us toward being a greater blessing in the lives of others.

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  1. I've been giving the idea of confession a lot of thought lately as well. (This hits on both this post and your next one.) In the past few years, especially, I've been given the desire for Godly rebuke and correction. In answering my prayer, as we can expect God would do, He's given it to me in the form of loving friends, as he has for you. However, recently I had a good friend rebuke me in love and it was really hard to swallow – really hard. This morning I was reading in Luke 11:40-41 where Jesus addresses the Pharisees saying "You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you." As I read commentary and meditated , I realized that "giving as alms those things that are within" can be for me confessing the inner, hidden, unclean parts of my heart to God and to others, and not shirking in shame from the correction. In giving these sorts of alms, as in outward giving with the right spirit, how great can I expect the blessing to me and to the Kingdom of God to be! If I can only humble myself and get past the shame. Thanks for sharing so candidly and encouraging a fellow sojourner along the way.


  2. For anyone who reads this posting in the future, I found Tiger Woods' recent quote particularly appropriate to tack on here. And I would note that, especially in light of Woods' words, I still find it remarkable the number of people who hear about doing interviews like the one I mentioned above and say they don't think they even could consider it."I was living a life of a lie, I really was. And I was doing a lot of things … that hurt a lot of people. And stripping away denial and rationalization you start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly. But then again, when you face it and you start conquering it and you start living up to it, the strength that I feel now … I've never felt that type of strength." — Tiger Woods in interview with ESPN's Tom Rinald


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