“Self Aware: See Your World”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series called Self Aware!

Learning how to be self-aware is not easy, but it can make a difference in all areas of your life. This week, we are investigating what makes a great employee, boss, and student. How can speaking and hearing the truth in love help us and those around us be more successful? When should we submit to authority and when should we take time to lead?

Next Steps:

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.

“Self Aware: See Your World” Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes:

Living in Los Angeles for almost 13 years while in my 20s and 30s, I really grew to understand who I am and who I could be. As part of a church family called Mosaic, we had an honest community with a focus on self awareness. In fact, that’s where I was introduced to the Myers Briggs Temperment Indicator (the MBTI) and Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessments.

The first day I discovered my strengths, I wasn’t such a fan.  I didn’t like my strengths. Our team was filled with people who had strengths such as Ideation, Strategic, Intellection, and Input.  At the time these were considered “Thinking” themes.  There were only two of us who didn’t have any “Thinking” themes – me and David Arcos, the guy overseeing our creative arts ministry.  David is one of the most talented people I know.  He can sing, dance, act, and write.  I can do none of these well.  A wave of embarrassment hit me as Chip asked me to share my strengths with the group.  By this point, I knew I was the odd one in the group.  I had zero “Thinking” themes and I was not artistic in the least.  My strengths included such exciting ones as Stimulator, Belief, and Woo.

“Stimulator” has since been renamed “Positivity.”  Thank goodness!  This is a much better term.  As I read the description of “Stimulator” it sounded like I was supposed to be some sort of relational laxative.  “Belief” meant I had a strong set of core values.  My first thought was “well doesn’t everyone?!”  “Woo” stood for “winning others over.”  That sounded ok at first, but then it sounded like I was supposed to be a politician kissing babies and such.  I could not get past the fact I seemed to lack the ability to lead or create a vision for others to follow like my teammates did.

With shame I shared with Chip and the group my top five strengths.  It seemed like they all seemed impressed if also somewhat confused.  I could feel them thinking with their “thinking” themes, “why doesn’t he have strategic or ideation like us?”  I could be wrong since I don’t have any thinking themes, but I thought they were thinking that.

Later in the training I approached Chip during a break.  “Chip, I have to admit, I don’t like my strengths.  I have no ‘Thinking’ theme!”

Chip looked at me with kindness and concern.  He was completely focused on me and this moment.  In a way that only Chip could do, he seemed to have already had an answer for my question.

“Eric, you remind me of Michael Jordan…”

At first, I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence.  At that point, I didn’t need to.  What an amazing compliment!  To be compared to the greatest basketball player in history was quite an honor.  I was a bit surprised since I am only 5’8” and not that great at basketball, but I knew what he meant.  Chip saw greatness within me, but then I actually heard the rest of what he intended to say.

“Eric, you remind me of Michael Jordan playing baseball.”

Ouch!  That was mean and cruel!  What kind of encouragement was that?!  The compliment had such a quick backhand I never saw it coming. 

Chip continued:  “Stop playing baseball and get back on the basketball court.”

A light went off in my mind.  Chip was so right.  I hated to admit it, but I was trying to be someone other than the person God created me to be.  I was trying to be good at anything I tried, but I was actually bad at everything. 

Over the next few years, we kept having honest conversations and helping each other grow. Eventually, we gave each other superhero names!

  • Gerardo Marti was Cerebro now a professor.
  • Janice Sakuma was the Velvet Sword because she brought the truth which could cut in such a sweet way so much so that you’d thank her.
  • David Arcos was Mercury because he was pliable, could morph into any shape, and dangerous.
  • My nickname was Stealth. They felt I was missed on the radar before sneaking up on you to make an impact like a Stealth Bomber. 

We all had hoodie jackets with our nicknames on them.I grew so much in that season because we had such open communication. We had a really good feedback loop.

People speaking into our lives about what they saw in us that was unique and from God as well as ways we could make improvements and changes to become more like the person God created us to be.

Have you ever been on a great team?

In middle school playing football or in high school choir.
Maybe it was sports team in your teens.
Maybe it was your fraternity or sorority in college.
Maybe it was that tech start up you joined or a job where you felt understood and heard and supported.

What makes a great team?

Share the same mission.
Going the same direction.
Great chemistry.
Great communication.
Everyone has a change to contribute what they do best.

In this new season as school is about to start up or as your life at work is about to recalibrate, today we are talking through being Self Aware at school and at work. In the first two weeks, we heard John talk about the importance of Seeing Yourself and Seeing Your Household. Today we are talking about Seeing Your World.

And if you are spiritual person, a great verse that can help us to have the best mindset at school or work is found in Colossians 3:23 which says:

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23  NLT

That’s such a different mindset! So often we are competing at school or at work against our colleagues. As a result, our competitive mindset means we are skeptical of others and it can bring out the worst in us. Rather than feeling loved and heard, open to feedback and open to change, we resist others.

  • For bosses–the thought that taking feedback from employees feels like weakness and if we did take feedback, we fear they’ll stop listening to us or respecting us.
  • For employees, we get feedback, but the question is how can we seek out character-developing feedback–and why should we even do it from work?
  • For Co-workers – it makes us feel very vulnerable, like we’re giving others access to stab us in the soft-underbelly.

Being Self Aware is rather rare nowadays. That’s unfortunate. With so many people on social media putting their lives on display, often everyone sees their blind spots but them.

“Sooner or later we must distinguish between what we are not and what we are….We must find our real self….created to be the child of God.” – Thomas Merton

Self-aware people are not only very likeable people, they also do better in work/school/relationships because they are able to take feedback without getting defensive, not have a fixed mindset but a growth mindset, and actually make changes that help them become better people.  

But there’s something that gets in the way of this–because we all know people, maybe many, who don’t seem to be very self-aware. Instead, they easily get defensive, can’t hear negative feedback, have ‘reasons’ for their behavior that often blames others.  

In what areas do you find yourself most defensive?
The times when you are quickest to blame someone else?

We can see that ugly trait in others, but miss it in ourselves. I think the resistance is …blindness.  We don’t see because we don’t want to see.  The resistance is facing the fears that drive us to defend, blame, self-justify.  Self-justification (or self-righteousness is the greatest resistance to self-awareness and growth–for all).

And it’s a battle! We see this battle described in the Scriptures. John shared last week about the fruit of the Spirit vs. brokenness of the world or as it says the battle is between the Spirit and and the flesh or sinful nature. Just before the passage John shared last week in Galatians 5, Paul writes:

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.- Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

So how do we overcome the evil from within so we can be free to carry out our good intentions – to be the person we want to be and God invites us to become?

John walked us through 4 Principles for Self-Awareness these past couple of weeks. Today I will expand on them – especially the last ones, but let me remind us of the first couple.

4 Principles for Self-Awareness

1). Standing in Grace

Because Grace lets us see ourselves from God’s perspective. We must first view ourselves in the Mirror of God’s Grace to endure and grow from painful feedback. If you don’t know how to Stand in Grace, feedback will feel threatening.

In order to not fall into the trap of un-awareness, we must learn to stand in God’s Grace–a place that removes all fear as we trust that God sees us as perfect, stainless, loved, fully accepted in Christ. That allows us to not need to prove anything to others, so we can take feedback from others without needing to defend or prove ourselves.

Remember the good news of the Scriptures is that You were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)

Even still, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).

No perfect people allowed. You and I have done wrong. We have blind spots. We’re not done growing. We have to admit that, or we’re stuck, in the dark.

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He not only forgives all our sins—he sets us in right relationship to our Creator. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe (Romans 3:24-25).

So when we believe or trust what God says, we Stand IN Love, Value, Acceptance.  Nothing can take that away—no matter what feedback we get on our actions or how people view us.

As His followers, We are now commissioned to bring heaven to earth as we love God and love people. He gives us purpose and the chance to change our world – the very same people who messed it up. That’s Grace.

2). Postured to Receive Feedback

Posture to receive feedback by remembering: Just because I listen doesn’t mean they’re correct.  

You know you may have heard us say around Gateway that it is always important to say the last 10%. That’s totally true. When we say almost everything that needs to be said then we aren’t fully helping that person. Now “saying the last 10%” isn’t about blasting someone with every angry or mean thought you ever had about that person. It is more about sharing all that the person with whom you are conflict needs to hear to help them grow. You see, we need to say that last 10% because it is in that last 10% that bitterness can grow. 

And we are supposed to share that last 10% with the actual person involved. Say you have an issue with someone at work. You are supposed to share all that person needs to hear with that person not to a co-worker who has nothing to do with the situation. When we do that, then we damage the person’s reputation. Our co-worker now has a lower view of the other co-worker and even bitterness even as you now feel better.

But it’s not just about saying the last 10%, but also hearing the last 10% and even asking for the last 10%.

If you saw the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar, you might remember there was a computer onboard who talked. In the film, the crew of the spaceship opted to put the computer’s settings at 90% truth because they weren’t ready to hear the last 10%.

Here’s the thing: we need to hear the last 10% because that is where the blind spots are hiding! Be willing to listen – no matter how hard it is. And even if it comes out messy and angry and not completely accurate, look for the truth in there. That’s the gold! 

That last 10% frees us from being stuck, from becoming just like our parents.

We need to love people enough to be willing to share the last 10%, and we need to love and trust God enough to listen to the last 10% about ourselves so that with His help we can change and overcome that blindspot. Know that when someone is sharing the last 10% then they love you more than most. They were willing to risk hurting you in order to truly help you!

3). Open Minded to Change

If you are open minded to change, open-to-letting God change you and grow you—He will.  

Now you to take the feedback to God. The difference between reacting in the moment, and taking it God to process is the key.

In that time, God can guide us towards what He wants.  This is freeing because it doesn’t always mean that the person giving feedback will be happy or praise you. In fact, they may not, but that’s their issue if you do this well. You’ll feel free!

Let me give you a personal example.

I have shared before about my struggle with having a short temper which I discovered as I was working the 12 steps with others here at Gateway that behind that anger is actually anxiety. 

It’s important to note: the 12 steps are spiritual disciplines that come right from the Scriptures. They are not only helpful for people trying to overcome addictions with alcohol or drugs, but they help all of us overcome wounds from our past and habits we cannot seem to overcome. We’ve had people go through Recovery here at Gateway who working to overcome anxiety, anger, overeating, pornography, and so many other issues that keep us from becoming who we want to be and who God created us to be. We have seen so many people helped by this, we are doing a couple of series this fall to help all of us find freedom from The Unmanageable Life so we can have A Restored Life instead.


When I look back at my life at work, I am embarrassed to confess, I have made people cry because of my behavior. I lost my temper and hurt people who were just trying to do their job. Now in every case, I apologized and made things right, but even still, I felt bad for lacking so much self-control. Even more, it’s scary that I can go from kind and loving to lashing out and upset in a split second! Perhaps even worse, I was a pastor who taught about Jesus changing our lives on Sundays and on my worst days making co-workers cry on Mondays – not every Monday. 🙂

As I began working through the steps, I began realizing that the cause of these angry outbursts were triggered when I felt out of control. When I was anxious something would go wrong, I demanded control back thinking that would solve the issue.

I continue to grow in this, and I haven’t made a co-worker cry in several years now, but I have discovered that angry outbursts aren’t the only way anxiety plays out.

Recently on my journey to continue to grow in this, I found something that helped a great deal. I listened to the Carey Nieuwhof podcast interview of Steve Cuss who was talking about his book Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs. Of course, his website is stevecusswords.com

Steve points out that all people have anxiety. It’s just that we don’t all know it or admit it.

Now, anxiety does not just come out as being worried. You see some of us say anxiety is worry and fear, and that we don’t tend to worry much and we’re not afraid of much, but chronic anxiety actually is what you do next when you don’t get what you think you need.

Hear that? 

Anxiety actually is what you do next when you don’t get what you think you need.

Let’s admit it: this season has taken its toll on us. 

  • The fear of illness.
  • The uncertainty of our personal or business finances.
  • The pain felt with racial injustice.
  • The confusion experienced by people we love becoming bitterly partisan.
  • The challenge of not knowing what to say to whom without fear of getting shunned or rejected as everyone is so on edge! We live in the midst of uncertainty and these trying times create mental health issues including anxiety.

Ambiguity is always a source of anxiety.

Anxiety typically shows up in the following way:

  • a spinning mind
  • a racing heart or
  • a tightening body
  • For some of us, anxiety is expressed in hyperproductivity. “Most leaders are prone to action, so when we’re anxious, we act more.”
  • For some of us it is expressed in screen time – binging on Netflix or surfing the internet for hours and hours.
  • For some of us it is expressed in venting with someone who is not actually part of the situation. 
  • For some of us it is going to that bad habit we go to for comfort – eating sweets or carbs beyond what is usual or healthy, drinking alcohol, smoking, and so on.
  • In meetings at work, some of us bulldoze over people or make sure we get the last word
  • Others of us stay silent and then call a “meeting after the meeting” to talk behind others’ backs.

Where you start having breakthroughs is when you can name this false need, this chronic anxiety, and then you can discern: “What do I do next that’s unusual?” 

When you don’t get what you need, just ask yourself:  “Why am I doing it? What am I trying to accomplish?” 

If you aren’t sure what you do next that is not healthy or normal, ask your team at work, ask your boss, or ask a loved one and the loved one will tell them that. Most people around us know our anxious responses even if we do not.

I have also discovered that anxiety is contagious.

Steve Cuss says:

“A leader is not the only person whose anxiety gets in the way. A group of people like a family or a staff can develop a systemic anxiety that keeps them stuck…. You can notice not just your own or another’s anxiety, but also your entire organization’s or family’s anxiety…. The most anxious person in the room has the most power. Because anxiety spreads the way a virus spreads. (By the way, social media is a super spreader). It’s highly contagious, and the only antidote is a leader who is able to walk into an anxious situation with calm presence, in what I’d say theologically, is incarnational presence. And that’s how you can deescalate a room. If a leader pays as much attention to process as they do to content, they can deescalate the anxiety in the room.”
– Steve Cuss

So learning these things and knowing the work I’ve done through the 12 steps on anxiety and what the Scriptures say about how with God’s help we can “take off the old to put on the new” like taking off anxiety and putting on peace, I have seen a dramatic difference in my life at work and at home. 

It happened when I was standing in grace, postured to receive feedback, and open minded to change. Some of my friends at work and my family helped me see how anxiety plays out in my life. In fact, it was using the assessment John pointed us towards last week from the Self Aware Life Group Outcome which is found at gatewaychurch.com/selfawaretest. They loved me enough to help me see a blindspot which gave me the freedom to make that change to become the “nonanxious presence” in the room when I am at my best. This actually is a technical term out of family systems theory. Anyone could Google it and get a long way. 

“Nonanxious presence is the ability to stop someone else’s anxiety infecting me and to stop my anxiety infecting someone else in any given moment.”
– Steve Cuss

So a couple of weeks ago, I shared the news with our staff that we are having to sell our house due to loss of the extra income I get from teaching and speaking at other churches and my wife was getting as an Occupational Therapist in the school district plus a surprise tax bill we had not expected. We are sad because we love our neighbors, the location, and all the memories we’ve had in this house the last 10 years, but we are excited for a fresh start in a new place in South Austin. We are excited for all that God is doing in and through Gateway and even excited about simplifying life to focus on Gateway and not have to take days off to work other jobs.

After sharing that news, a couple of people on staff who have walked with me over the years both reached out separately to check on me. Both were amazed at the difference they saw in me and encouraged me. I shared with them some of what I just shared with you. I told them how I have been trying to absorb other’s anxious responses to this stressful time – knowing they are hurting and having a hard time. I have realized I should be empathetic rather than defensive or reactive. It’s almost like breathing in others’ anxiety and breathing out peace, faith, hope, and love. We celebrated together in those moments.

It wasn’t but just a couple of hours later before I relapsed!

I received a text from a friend from work who was hurting on behalf of another friend at work. One had been triggered and it triggered the one who texted me. Now I was triggered! Rather than responding well, I went all in on this trigger loop! Soon I was moody and easily frustrated and less willing to absorb the kids’ anxieties or my wife’s anxieties. Or keeping my own anxieties in check by taking them to God first. Well that is not what I did this time, and it showed. For the next two days, we were all angry and frustrated and all taking it out on each other.

All of it could have been avoided, if I had not relapsed. For all these years, I have thought my daughter or my wife had “drama queen” tendencies when all along, I have been the “drama king”!

Now when you relapse, you will be tempted to just give up thinking you will never be able to change. Instead, restart!

One last quote from Steve Cuss:

“We can easily be in the grip of chronic anxiety or we can be in the grip of the unconditional love of God. It is very difficult to be in the grip of both.”
– Steve Cuss

Are you standing in grace?
Are you postured for feedback?
Are you open minded to change?

4). Looping Back for Feedback

Spiritually mature people will loop back to grow the relationship, they keep looking for multiple sources of feedback to improve.

This is really about 2 things: 

1. Feedback used well is for improvement. 

You go back to the person, or go to several people (that person may have hurts so they can’t acknowledge your growth, but others can.  

2. Relational

Loving God means better loving others, so looping back for more feedback can build the relationship.  At work, it can build trust with your boss or employees to ask “Am I doing better in that area? Are you noticing improvement—cause I’m working on it.”

I shared at the beginning of this year in the message: Envision a New You: Growing how I used to believe that “All Bryants are controlling, short-tempered, anxious, and cheap.”

But I have seen glimpses of Bryants being empowering, calm, peaceful, and generous!

Now, they all married into our family, but…

No really, in the context leaning into my relationship with God and leaning into my relationships in our Gateway community (which includes looping back for feedback) – even though it has been online all these months, I have discovered I don’t have to be the controlling, angry, and anxious tightwad I thought I was destined to be!

You see, your family of origin does not have to limit you.
Your last name does not have to define you.

Have you ever considered that God loves your family so much that He put you in your family so that He might help you find spiritual healing so that then you can bring that healing to everyone older than you and all who come after you?

So let me encourage you. God is with you in this.

  •  You are going to make it.
  • He is with you on the frontlines.
  • He is with you at work.
  • He is with you as you work from home.
  • He is with you as homeschool.
  • He is with your kids as they are at school.
  • He is with you as you look for work.

This doesn’t mean – we won’t struggle. It means He is with us in the struggle.

If you have never really connected with God personally, I want to invite you to do just that. Maybe one of your blindspots has been your lack of connection with God. Maybe you think of yourself of a Christian but there is no real relationship. 

To begin a relationship with God or restart one, simply pray: “God I need you. Forgive me. Lead me.” These words aren’t magical. It is all about the posture of your heart. When you want God, and you turn to Him, you will find Him. If you are making this decision for the first time or in a real way for the first time in a long time, let us know.

Text the word “connect” to 512-402-3773

We want to help you in your spiritual journey. This life is too hard to walk on your own.

And here’s what is really amazing! When you surrender your life to following Jesus, His Spirit comes to live within you to guide, direct, comfort, convict, and enable you to become the person God created you to be.

As we conclude our series “Self Aware,” let me remind those of you who follow Jesus some things about you that are critical to remember so you can become the person God created you to be – the person you deep down want to be.

  • You were created in the image of God.
  • You are now a child of a Heavenly Father, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe and Great Provider.
  • You have the mind of Christ!
  • You are a citizen of Kingdom of heaven – first and foremost!
  • Your body is a temple of the Lord. That’s a remarkable idea! I have always heard that in the context of honoring God with our bodies by making pure and healthy choices. This is true, but we also have to remember, the Temple is where we find God’s presence! God’s presence was in the Garden of Eden, in the fire of the burning bush, at the tabernacle and the Temple as a cloud, and in the person of Jesus. Now His presence is in us! And we will one day be in His presence in the new heaven and the new earth!
  • You are loved.
  • You are chosen.
  • You are holy, set apart.
  • You were created on purpose and with a purpose.
  • You are not alone.

So what is your next step today? 

Everyone of us has something God has for us and something He wants from us. Ask Him right now.

  • Perhaps it’s to become that nonanxious presence at work, at school, or at home.
  • Perhaps it’s to apologize to someone you have hurt or you have talked badly about to others.
  • Perhaps it’s to ask those who love you for feedback.
  • Perhaps it’s taking intentional next steps into community
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