"Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
There are a number of skills that lead to success in life. Self-awareness is one of them, although it is not often seen as a critical trait. However, understanding who we are, how we think, and how we operate is vital to knowing who we are and who God has called us to be.
What exactly is self-awareness? Self-awareness has been defined as the ability to make an accurate assessment of your own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, emotions, desires, and motivations. The better we know ourselves and our tendencies toward certain sins, the clearer we can see where we need to grow as followers of Christ. A healthy self-awareness benefits our relationships as well because it also enables us to understand others and how they see us. A ministry leader with self-awareness will have an accurate read on how she is perceived and react accordingly.
Note that self-awareness differs from self-absorption, which only focuses on inward - aka “navel-gazing”. Self-awareness does not cause us to fixate on ourselves but to better understand how uniquely God created us.
What are some benefits of self-awareness, especially in ministry?
- Self-awareness gives us the ability to discern others’ emotions and reactions.
- Self-awareness helps us identify our own weaknesses or blind spots yet not be threatened or intimidated by them.
- Self-awareness enables us to look back at painful or shameful episodes of our lives and see them accurately, rather than inventing our own narrative. It avoids making excuse for poor behavior.
- Self-awareness is the polar opposite of denial, which is a refusal to see life as it truly is.
How do we grow in self-awareness? Here are a few suggestions:
- Process your thoughts and prayers through journaling. I recently flipped through an old prayer notebook. As I read back on a particular struggle I had forgotten about, I saw so clearly how I had skimmed over my own pettiness and put myself in the best light - even in my prayers! Eventually, I had become so discouraged that I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to me in this situation, and if I could possibly be slightly at fault? It wasn’t long until I saw that I had missed the glaring problem - my own pride, due to a huge blind spot and unwillingness to admit I was wrong. Self-awareness enables us to see ourselves as we truly are, but that may take some time and effort, but persevere.
- Listen to yourself. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). What do you talk about? I recently sat at a dinner engagement where one person completely dominated the conversation, talking about his vast accomplishments and how brilliant his own influence was on the elite in his city. I’m sure I was not the only one thinking, “Is he ever going to stop? Does he not realize he has talked nonstop for thirty minutes about himself?” Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but the rest of us sure did. No self-awareness.
- Don't be afraid to ask the Spirit to give you a healthy perspective on yourself. Then don’t get defensive when He does! Wrestling with our sinful nature, weaknesses, strengths, temptations, and emotions grow our self-awareness and help us better serve in the Kingdom.
The end goal of our walk with Christ, however, is not self-awareness. As Tim Keller has said, “Self-awareness is never the destination, it is only a step on the way to transformation.” A healthy self-awareness should put us on (and keep us on) the road to sanctification. Surely this is exactly what King David was striving for when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).