At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series called Self Aware!
Self-aware people succeed because they are able to take feedback without getting defensive. They have a growth mindset that allows them to receive feedback, filter out the noise, and make positive changes. How can standing in God’s grace allow us to remove the fear of feedback from others? How can knowing how God sees us give us the confidence to have a growth mindset? Let’s explore these ideas together!
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
“Tell me the truth, Even if it hurts me, even if it’s ugly; My heart is open, Tell me the truth; Without the self-protection, Love can mend what’s broken, In me and you, Tell me the truth.”
Those lyrics by Stephanie Gretzinger express what we all want to be true in our households—with a spouse or roommates, with kids. We want to be open-hearted, fearless and free, relationally courageous people who can hear the truth humbly and grow, and we view ourselves that way. Sure, I can hear the truth, even if it hurts me.
My heart is open. I have no self-protection.
That’s all fine and good until a spouse or family member holds up a mirror that feels false, or accusatory, slanders our good character, mischaracterizes our motives. I can take the truth, but YOU don’t have the truth. You’re just wrong!
Before you know it, we’re in an ugly fight, defending ourselves, attacking the other, pointing out all the truths they can’t seem to see and admit to. This is often what happens when negative feedback is given in families or to roommates.
As we’ve been COVID-19 shut in—stuck in the same house together—some families or even singles living alone have found ways to thrive—they’ve rediscovered relationship, but some families are feeling the stress fractures growing. All of us are facing more unknowns and more stress than before, and it affects us and this affects those we live with, and even our extended families we don’t live with. When we are stressed or hurting or defensive and lacking self-awareness, our households suffer. But there’s an alternative. The Scriptures create this remarkable contrast between the kind of life we will experience outside of God’s guidance vs. the kind of life we can have if we are willing to trust Him and follow His Spirit.
Let’s do a quick self-assessment based on this passage from Galatians 5.
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division… 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:16-22
So which would describe your internal world and your household more:
A. I feel and/or experience with others “…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy….”
B. I feel and/or experience with others “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (See Galatians 5:16-25)
Which sounds better to you?
You know before the pandemic, maybe some of us didn’t experience these negative relational dynamics because you weren’t home enough to experience them. But now you are working from home and your spouse is working from home and your kids are supposed to be going to school from home you can’t do what you need to do, and everyone’s on the edge of losing it.
Galatians 5 tells us, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Spirit of God within you to guide you, convict you, redirect you, and help you. We can “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) and grow rather than just give into the negative emotions, bad habits, bad patterns—But that means growing more Self Aware. And God uses our household to give us Feedback to grow.
Last week we started unpacking 4 Principles for Self-Awareness:
1). Standing in Grace
2). Postured to Receive Feedback,
3). Openminded to Change
4). Looping Back for Feedback.
We focused on Standing in Grace the whole message last week, because until we learn to actually act like what God says about us is True, we will not be able to take negative feedback and grow. We will forever be defending our right to be loved, valued, accepted instead of just standing in God’s Grace—already fully loved, valued, and accepted, with nothing to lose.
Once we get that straight—we can see feedback as a welcome opportunity to grow, learn, let God shape us into a better and better version of ourselves. And what you have to realize today—is that the stakes are very high. When you are willing to take feedback from your household—it has a positive effect on all your relationships, marriage, friendships, and especially your children. We affect each other—especially those in our household.
It is critical that we grow in self-awareness.
Standing in Grace is critical to Self Awareness because “I can give up the struggle to prove I’m right, acceptable, understood?”
The 2nd Principle of Self Awareness: Postured to Receive Feedback
How we react to feedback tells us something about ourselves. These people are mirrors God wants to use to show us where He wants to grow us spiritually—no one’s perfect—so we all need to grow. But to grow, we have to Posture to Receive Feedback.
There is an old joke about a happy young optimist whose parents are trying to teach him to see the world more realistically. So they decide to give him a large sack of horse dung for his birthday. “What did you get?” asks his grandmother, wrinkling her nose at the smell. “I don’t know,” cries the boy with delight as he excitedly digs through the dung. “But I think there’s a pony in here somewhere!” Receiving feedback can be like that. People are not good at giving feedback, they may give you a bunch of crap to dig through, but there just might be a pony in there somewhere. So Imagine hearing feedback you don’t like—you’re thinking “that’s a bunch of crap”. Say…
There’s a pony in here somewhere – In Grace, change your posture.
Just because People are horrible at giving feedback, doesn’t mean we should reject it outright as total horse dung.
Stone and Sheen, authors of Thanks for the Feedback say:
“There are lots of good reasons not to take feedback, and at the front of the line stands this one: it’s wrong. The advice is bad, the evaluation is unjust, the perception someone has of us is outdated or incomplete. We reject, defend, or counterattack, sometimes in the conversation but always in our minds.”
The problem with this posture is, we may not clearly understand what they’re saying. Yes, they may say it poorly, or their own hurt and junk may muddy up the waters, but before we declare it totally wrong and reject it—we need to Posture ourselves to find the Pony. How do you do this? How do you allow yourself to be slandered, wronged, falsely accused (which feedback can feel like that, yet it can still help us grow).
Here’s what I do when I’m feeling this way: To myself (and God) I say in my mind Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jesus was willing to be wronged for you, for me, to change this world. Will I do the same for him? I sometimes just say “Die John—die to self, live for Christ. He was unjustly accused for me—can I do the same right now for him?” And that’s key—I’m doing it for God. Not for my spouse or parent or roommate giving the feedback. That’s Critical, you’re doing it For God, as an act of dependence on God’s Spirit—that Posture allows you to not react but find the pony and become a better you by God’s power.
In Galatians 5, it says: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). I am willing to die to my emotions, my ego, and what I want because I am trusting that Jesus’ way is better than mine. So you die to self, to being right, and you keep asking questions—digging for the pony. What do you mean by that? Can you give me an example? How often do I do that?
Now, the more you ask, the more they’ll talk—and the more they talk the more triggered you’ll get. Ignoring the triggers isn’t the key—as Sheen says that’s like trying to put out a fire by smashing the alarm. Triggers alarm us to something beneath the surface—triggers are feedback. The question is, what is it and why? When you’re getting triggered and defensive, take this posture: Jesus is my Defense Attorney!
I don’t need to defend myself—I’ll just take notes and bring the case to Him. We talked about this last week.
We have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 1 John 2:1
Emotional triggers make us defend, but that defensive posture keeps us from finding the pony, the gift in the feedback that God will use to grow us.
Maybe the feedback triggers you because it feels wrong, or not the full story, but maybe it triggers us because of who is giving it. We know their issues or other issues—so their past history is negating all they’re saying. When this happens we Switch-Track (as they say in Thanks for the Feedback). They’re giving feedback in an area, like our tardiness, but it triggers an unresolved issue in another area, so we switch-tracks “You’re one to point out I’m constantly late, since you’re constantly critical of everything and won’t change.” Their being critical is an important conversation that needs to be had, but separately. Don’t Switch-Tracks–Look for the pony in this Feedback, then make a time to talk separately about the other issue.
And Posture to receive feedback by remembering: Just because I listen doesn’t mean they’re correct. Sometimes we feel like they’re wrong, or don’t have the full picture, and if I just ask questions and listen—try to really understand—I’m giving them the idea I think they’re right, and they’re wrong! Again—you’re not doing this for them, but for God and for you—to become the best you possible with God’s help. You’re laying down your life, trusting Jesus to Defend you with truth, humbly willing to grow and improve. So tell yourself “I can listen and try to understand—that doesn’t mean they’re right or I have to admit anything or do what they say”. You’re just posturing to receive. To trying to get a clear understanding so you can process it alone with God. So 1st, Standing in Grace, 2nd you Posture to Receive Feedback so you understand what they mean.
Principle 3 for Self Awareness: Open-minded to Change
Now you to take the feedback to God. The difference between reacting in the moment, and taking it God to process is The Key. Sometimes I will write in my Journal what I heard the person saying, then I will get alone with God and pray through the feedback. You’re asking God to help you sort through what was their hurt or their issues clouding things up, versus the Pony, the gift to help you grow. Sometimes, He will help you see that 90% of what they said was their own filters–shame or deception–but there’s always that 10% that He will show you is a growth-edge for you. And If you are openminded to change, open-to-letting God change you and grow you—He will.
Those we live with see us most clearly, and so their feedback should be most trusted, but often we’re closed-minded to them most. They often try to point out our blind spots, but of course, we’re blind to those blind spots, yet we so clearly see their blind spots they’re close minded about. We all stay stuck. What have those closest to you been trying to say? How have you reacted to it? Have they stopped trying to tell you? Why don’t you take the lead to get unstuck—Be humbly openminded to God to grow and change you. What do You want me to hear God? Feedback may come from a spouse, or roommate, or God may use your children—even subtly.
When my daughter Ashley was 3 years old, she asked me to play Barbies. I wanted to be a great father, I valued that above all—I viewed myself as a good father. But I was really busy—in fact, I was always red-lining. I had left Engineering to go into Ministry, I was working on 2 master’s degrees, writing a book, working on a recording project, and had just gotten promoted into management. So I got down on the carpet and started playing Barbies with my left hand, while holding my book open with my right hand to study for a test. About 5 minutes into it Ashley stopped, looked me in the eyes and said, “Dad, you’re not playing right!” When she said that, it cut me to the core. I realized Kathy and Ashley had tried to give me feedback, but I was blind. It was like the Holy Spirit said through my daughter’s feedback, “John you’re not fooling anyone but yourself—not even your 3 year old.” Something was wrong, but what? I didn’t honestly know. But I took it to God in prayer—a lot that next year. I wanted to be open to change, I realized that I was constantly busy, stressed, red-lining—and the thought of doing less was not an option. I wanted to be a good father, to be in the moment with my kids and wife, to just enjoy them—but I couldn’t. I didn’t know why. And by the way—the “why” to our blindspot patterns is often how we grew up, so we don’t see it, it’s subconscious. It’s like a fish that doesn’t see the water. But God will show you if you’re open-minded to change. That year I asked for feedback from my Spiritual Running Partners—3 guys I met with to discuss spiritual growth. They told me “yes, you’re always doing way too much, not very peace-filled, not much time for relationship. At first, I bristled—I’m a very fun, nice, people-loving guy (my image of my self)—yet feedback was partially contradicting that. I kept praying, “God, I’m open to change—show me how.” And one day the Lord brought to mind the
fruits fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, the passage we looked at earlier which says: “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience…” when I got to peace, I realized, “I’ve never had peace. I’ve always had to do more, live out in the future.” Why God? Show me why I’m like this? The next year, my Grandmother passed away. I was with my Aunt talking about Grandmom when I realized, “I know nothing about her husband, my Grandfather on my dad’s side—not even his name.” My dad hated his father because he was a drunk who abandoned the family, leaving them in deep poverty during the Great Depression. My father vowed to not be like him, so he worked hard, put himself through college and a Masters, started his own company and “succeeded” financially. Of course, the stress drove him to smoke and drink cancer took his life when I was 16. My dad would have me out in the yard working while my friends were playing, he’d say “You’re not gonna be a bum, you’re gonna know how to work.” He’d see hippies (it was the 70s) and get visibly angry and say to me “You’re not gonna be a bum like that.” So here I am sitting with my Aunt—my last living connection to my Grandfather, and ask her “What was my grandfather like?” And my smiley, jovial Aunt gets red-in-the-face angry and says, “He was a bum.” Same angry phrase, same hurt, my father spewed over and over. And in that moment, God pulled back the curtain and showed me the source of my blindspot. I knew my father loved me, but what if I was a bum? How do you prove to a dead father you’re not a bum—you don’t deserve to be hated and rejected? Keep working harder, doing more, endlessly.
Now, here’s why I tell you that. It’s subconscious—it’s a blindspot because it feels right—it’s how we’ve survived, or it’s how we got our deep needs met—yet our family members are giving Feedback that it’s hurting them. Will you go to God and let him show you the roots? Once I saw the roots, I was able to push against the lies and grow. I don’t have to redline to be loved or secure—I Stand in Grace. Now, the next part of Openminded to Change is asking God how to change. I started putting things in place to push against that blindspot tendency. Playing with my kids, relaxing with Kathy, feelings of worthlessness would arise saying “You’re wasting time, this is not productive.” I’d push against it—this is the most important thing to God—keep doing it, enjoy it. And in time I did. IN fact, my son told me this summer that he never experienced me as too busy for him. That’s not how it would have turned out—but when we Stand in Grace, Postured to Receive Feedback, Openminded to God to change us—we do grow and change, and it’s freedom, it’s love, joy, peace—for us and those around us.
So what feedback have you been getting—from a spouse, or child, or maybe roommate or parent?
Are you Standing in Grace so you can Posture to Receive Feedback, are you taking it to God Openminded to Change?
If so, God will lead and guide you. You know this is why spiritual community is so important – to have others in your life encouraging you, helping you, even being a mirror to you. Connecting in a life group or serving team can help you grow through these challenging days. I needed my Spiritual Running Partners to have the encouragement to stay Open to Change. We need community now more than ever. I want to encourage you to get connected now if you’re not yet.
We’re going to do a series this fall all walking through the 12 Steps of Spiritual Growth that comes right out of the Bible—it’s a way for all of us to grow and change—get in a group now because it doesn’t work alone. Our online community groups are safe spaces to make good friends—you don’t have to know anything, NPPA, just be yourself and you’ll find Grace-giving acceptance to grow.
In our Life Groups, we work on spiritual outcomes—you can see all of them at Gatewaychurch.com Spiritual Growth Path. Life groups are designed for those who are ready for intentional spiritual growth, and they go through Studies in the Scriptures to help each other put practices and habits in place to really grow. I’m in a Life Group with the Board and Overseers. One of my favorite Life Group Outcomes is the Self Aware Outcome. So I want to share this exercise with you. So here’s your assignment, should you choose to accept it. If you want to do more than just hear the Word, but actually do it—actually let God grow you—this is your next step. You can do it as a group or family or on your own.
Go to gatewaychurch.com/nextsteps so you can see it. It is an assessment you take of yourself of where you are “in word,” “in deed,” and “in attitude.” That’s the easy part. The bold part is then to ask those with whom you live to fill out an assessment as well. You can even include a couple of friends and a couple of co-workers, people you pay to say only good things. 🙂