We all know people who never learn from experience, but we seldom do either.
We wander through life oblivious to the ways that we contribute to—or are completely responsible for—our suffering. We sit through sermons, read Scripture, and take part in conversations wishing so-and-so were there to be confronted with the truth they need to hear—often missing out on the truth for ourselves.
An important part of being transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2) is learning to see yourself as you really are. But the truth is, the person we’re often working hardest to deceive is ourselves.
Here’s some simple steps to help you partner with the Holy Spirit in conforming you to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29):
1. Think about yourself in third person.
It’s hard to see ourselves from the perspective of others. And our view of ourselves is often awash in a sea of mixed motives, feelings of entitlement, and reactionary responses. It’s helpful to disengage occasionally and look at yourself as he/she instead of as me. You’ll be surprised at what you see.
2. Start seeing the patterns.
It’s hard to be honest with ourselves when we see our trouble as a series of isolated events. It’s also difficult when we attribute every trouble to a source beyond our control.
If we actually do a little inventory, we’ll find a lot of reoccurring struggles in our lives. It might be a string of broken relationships, lost jobs, or disappointing church experiences. When we’re completely honest, we can begin to recognize these patterns and see that sometimes the common denominator is us.
3. Stop letting yourself off the hook.
If you follow Christ, you know what’s expected of you. Walking in humility, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving others, although difficult, are not expectations for a select few. But when it’s time to practice them, there are a never-ending litany of reasons why we should be excluded.
Quit entertaining the arguments your ego gives for expecting Christlike behavior from others, but not from yourself.
4. Don’t instantly discount criticism.
Sometimes we’re confronted by people who don’t know the whole story, don’t understand the complexities involved, or are just jerks. It doesn’t matter. Genuine, and important, catalysts for change can come from anywhere.The source doesn’t have to be pure for the assessment to be accurate.
If you receive criticism, even if it comes from someone who has no right to criticize you, hear them out. Give all but the most absurd criticism a little consideration and prayer. If it has any validity, address it. If not, let it go.
5. Ask others for honest input.
I know it’s scary. Find people you trust and ask them what weaknesses they see in you. Choose the timing carefully. Do it at a time you know they are feeling secure with you. They’re going to feel incredibly vulnerable, so make sure that, no matter what they say, you do not make them sorry for being honest with you.
6. Don’t trust your perspective.
You’re not omniscient. At any given time, your understanding of any issue is incredibly limited. Not only do you not know all the facts in a situation, the way you interpret the facts you do have is colored by your own unique set of experiences and prejudices. Size up a situation using your perspective as a guideline, but be wary—you’re seldom completely accurate.
Being honest with yourself isn’t for the weak. There’s a lot of terrible attitudes and behaviors in all of us we choose to ignore. There’s no advantage in despising ourselves (remorse, however, is acceptable). Remember, Christ is always reaching out to you in love. He longs for you to be honest with yourself, but only because the truth will set you free.