What do you do when the person you need to be, is clearly not who you are?
What do you do when you see personal failure lurking right around the corner, and you feel powerless to stop it?
When I was a young dude, I had the privilege of having people in my life who had the wisdom and integrity to point out things in my life I was unable to see…areas of weakness and signs of immaturity that, if left unchecked, could surely shipwreck my marriage, my reputation, and my future career.
So in my mid-twenties, I made a commitment to face those shortcomings head-on. As I look back on those days, one of the things I am most grateful for was being able to develop a pretty healthy sense of self-awareness. I know the things I don’t do well. I know where I am prone to fail. I know those situations I should steer clear of.
But just because I know those things, doesn’t mean I don’t wander where I don’t belong. And it affects my personal disciplines. And my relationships. And my leadership. And that wandering then affects my confidence and my emotions and even my energy level.
Like I said, I’m pretty self-aware.
And I’ve learned some things through the years that have helped me deal with my own limitations as a leader, as a counselor, as a friend, and as a husband.
- You’ve gotta have friends you trust, that will be honest with you. Blind spots will kill you. Having friends that are close enough to see you as you really are and confident enough to speak the truth to you, even though it’s uncomfortable, is essential.
- Develop thicker skin. Look…sometimes the truth really hurts. So does alcohol on a wound. So does surgery. So does ten more minutes on the elliptical. The path to personal health and maturity begins with honesty. Sometimes brutal honesty.
- Ask for help. When I was younger, I thought I could do most things by myself. I actually took pride in being able to say I did something without anybody’s help. What an idiot.
- Don’t give up the fight. I am still fighting some of the same battles I’ve had for nearly forty years. I am a fully-registered, card-carrying rescuer and an enabler. So sue me. I’m such a people-oriented leader, finishing a task is always optional. I am way too trusting. The list could go on. But I refuse to give up. I keep working on these things.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s easy to say, “Nobody’s perfect.” It’s another thing to really believe it. Most of us have an easier time forgiving others, than we do forgiving ourselves. Guilt motivation will ultimately destroy the spirit. Give yourself a break. There’s only one Messiah.
- Learn something from every failure. This is pretty elementary, but it’s easy to overlook. A mistake or failure is not fatal, if we learn from it. The maturing process is not about eliminating our shortcomings, as much as it is about letting them constantly teach us.
In many ways, I am who I am. I have had a lifetime of growth. I am better than when I first started. But there are ways I am wired that I have not ever been able to completely separate myself from…and I am convinced those shortcomings are the anvil on which God continues to mold me.