20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #8: Self-Deception is Never My Issue

We usually can’t see the egg on our own face. If we could, we’d deal with it. Unless we get a glimpse in a mirror or a hint from a friend, we’ll walk around oblivious to our breakfast carryover.

Self DeceptionReality check: the changes we need the most are often the hardest ones to see. We don’t readily identify areas we’re starting to slip, places we’ve become complacent, or negative attitudes creeping in.

And yet I’ve become more convinced than ever that growing in self-awareness is central to spiritual growth and ongoing ministry effectiveness.

For the month of May, I’ve been reflecting on my last 20 years in ministry, trying to glean lessons I’ve learned and am still learning. Lesson #8 has been an ongoing struggle.

Because Self-deception is Never My Issue . . . or that’s what I tell myself.
Knut hides his eyes

Wow, this is a big one. I’m coming to see that spiritual and personal growth is almost always about dealing with self-deception, a trait particularly strong in ministry leaders. There are so many things that seem to battle against self-awareness–our own feelings of inadequacy, our sense of mission, our patterns of deceit, our lack of self-reflection, even our overdeveloped sense of urgency which blocks out personal growth.

But figuring out how to hold up honest mirrors so we can unmask deception within ourselves and our leadership teams is paramount.

Though I’m just barely getting a handle on this one (and how would I really know?), this is what has been helping me most in the last few years:Holding up a mirror

  1. Meeting regularly with a spiritual director. I meet monthly, via Skype, with a director who helps me probe what is going on in my own heart and life. Immensely helpful.
  2. Honest conversations with friends I can really trust. We need to have a few people in our lives with whom we can really share. People who truly love us and will both listen and challenge us, trusted friends we’ve invited into our journey toward self-awareness. I’ve written elsewhere on our need to overcome blind spots. Trusted friends are key.
  3. Spiritual practices of solitude, silence, prayer, and journaling. I’m a bit of a slow learner, but these practices have become more and more central as I grow in self-awareness.
  4. Soliciting honest feedback from truth-tellers. The longer you are in ministry among people who love you, the more difficult it is to get good, helpful, honest feedback. I try to find ways to dig for it, usually through questions, conversations, and even reviews.
  5. Holding up a mirror whenever I can.  Committing to dealing with self-deception means we really do attempt to see what we normally ignore. Whether it’s when I’m listening to a sermon, or reacting to a situation in a disappointing way, I try to hold up that mirror, asking God to show me what’s going on in my heart.

Sigh. Self-deception is my issue, and in order to grow and lead, I need to make sure I’m growing in truth, both about myself and about the One I’m following.

How do you grow in self-awareness?
Where have you seen own leadership stumble from self-deception?

Here’s the first seven lessons I’ve posted:

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