“…intimidating leaders are not often told about their blind spots. We often wonder how powerful leaders could make such stupid decisions, but the sad reality is there was nobody around them willing to point out their mistakes. They’d pushed away anybody willing to question them.”
I came across this snippet this morning on Donald Miller’s blog (www.storylineblog.com). The original post is about leadership, which honestly doesn’t apply to me in this stage of my life at all. I’m really not in charge of anything. But regardless, parts of it hit home.
I’m a strong personality. Not in the sense that I’m particularly forward or dominating. So maybe “stubborn” personality is a better way to describe it: I know what I believe. I know what I think should be done. I act in specific ways because they seem best to me. I don’t really like being challenged in the ways I do things because, do you not know? I am super smart and have thought through this and it is indeed the best way to get said thing done.
I can also be a little arrogant. More on that later.
Probably the number one adjective used to describe me in high school was ‘intimidating’. That sure makes a girl feel good about her self, obviously. But it’s unfortunately true. The weird thing is, I honestly didn’t mind it that much. I figured out by the time I was a senior that being intimidating basically meant you could get away with treating people however you wanted, because no one had the guts to challenge you. But I was also a good, Christian girl who led worship and girls Bible studies and people came to me for advice about their personal lives and walks with Jesus. So I had to be sneaky. I became the ultimate master of passively treating people like dirt. Because if you don’t actually do anything, you can’t be accused of anything. And you can get away with everything.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a short road. It is a short road that comes to an abrupt stop at the edge of a cliff and you suddenly find yourself dangling, maybe holding on to a branch or two, really wishing there was someone around to grab you by the hand, the waist, the hair, anything, and pull you back on solid ground. But that’s the funny thing about being intimidating and stubborn and strong – no matter how strong you are, you can never pick yourself up. I mean, seriously. Go try it. Grab your hand and try to pick yourself up. It will never work.
So that’s where I found myself. Strong, independent, and crying on my couch at home because I hated college and never wanted to go back. What happened?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love that I’m stubborn. I love that I’m independent. But these beautiful character traits are so easily twisted. I found that there is a huge difference between being stubborn and independent, and living a stubborn and independent life.
A stubborn and independent life leaves you alone. And, to quote the Bible, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Spiritually. Physically. Psychologically. We’re just not meant to be alone. And it wasn’t until I realized my incredible need for deep companionship, deep community, that my strong facade was simply a way of making sure I was never challenged, that I sought out other people. Instead of keeping to myself and trying to keep everyone at a comfortable arms-length through my impressive powers of intimidation, I began to try and get to know the people around me. I asked them questions. I actually answered their questions thoughtfully and honestly. I began to let them affect me. And I watched as all of my blind spots came into sharp, clear view.
Which, by the way, smarts. A lot.
But I’m grateful every day for the equally strong/stubborn personalities God has made inextricable parts of my life. I have a sister who, over the past few years, has also become one of my best friends. Who knows me so well she can call me out on my crap, sometimes even before I’m aware I have it. I have a (non-related) best friend who has stuck with me, through thick, thin, weird, complicated, and heartbreaking, since the sixth grade. She’s not intimidated by me at all, because she’s seen me at my worst, and knows what I can be at my best. Our friendship has changed so much since middle school, and now I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have a roommate who refuses to let me clam up in myself when I’m angry or upset. Who has taken the time and effort to understand my personality, and is willing to point out when I’m acting out of my weaknesses instead of my strengths. She never lets me hide behind excuses, whether elaborately thought out or just completely lame. I am surrounded by wonderful, beautiful people who never accuse, but instead ask me ‘why’ questions, forcing me to explain myself out loud – an exercise I believe the majority of humanity should make a habit. I don’t know what my daily life is going to look like without them come graduation in May.
It is because of these people that I am not an egotistical maniac. It is because of these people that I have been able to grow. That I have been able to better understand myself. It is these people, with our lives we have decided to live together instead of alone, that point out my blind spots, and call me out when I am doing something stupid. They question me. They love me
And sometimes I hate it. I hate being told that I’m doing something wrong. I hate being told that there is one right way to do things, and that I’m not doing it. Part of this is simply personality. I’d rather find as many different ways to do things as possible than limit myself to just one solution. But probably nine times out of ten, I’m just being horribly prideful. And would rather find an “alternative creative solution” than admit that your solution might be better than mine.
I guess what I’m trying to say (and have taken forever to say) is this:
Surround yourself with people. Let yourself get into the lives of other people, and let them get into yours. How often do we disregard people based on their looks or the way they talk or where they’re from or (college example!) what they’re majoring in? Take time to listen. Take time to ask questions. Seek people who are also seeking love and friendship and community, and decide to live life together. Even when it’s hard. Even when the other person is annoying you. Make it a conscious decision. A commitment. A covenant, of sorts.
If you’re bored and looking for a crazy spiritual or personal ride, ask yourself these kinds of questions. What personality traits of mine am I making into a lifestyle? Is this bad? Do I have someone in my life that points out my blind spots? Am I too prideful to let people affect me?
And then act on the answers.
These are the big questions in life that hurt. That are awkward. That take a lot of tears and gritted teeth and honesty and love to get through. Am I saying all of this because I have everything figured out? No. There are always more blind spots. Always more faults. Always more conflicts and people who you’ll treat wrongly and opportunities to love that you’ll miss. But, on the flip side, there are also always more people to love. More people to let in. More people that are different than you that will let you grow and flourish and expand yourself.
People hurt. Individuals hurt. We hurt each other sometimes. But I cannot even begin to explain how you will see yourself change when you are willing to let yourself be affected by others. When you are willing to let them point out your blind spots and your weaknesses. When you let people love you enough to keep you from dangling over cliffs.