There are three questions that I find myself looking at from time to time. They are questions that rank up there with “what’s your why” and “who do you say I am”. They are questions that help me reflect on living a life of integrity. They force me to answer if I am truly being the same person outwardly, as I think I am in my own head.
How do you see yourself?
How do others see you?
Are you happy with both answers?
As I dive deeper into those questions and explore my own answers, I have found that, for me personally, we desire definition by our sacrifice. Others know as based on the choices we make, for good or for bad. If we want to be known as a family man or woman, we are often praised for giving up a career or higher paying job. If we choose the career path, we can be treated as if we made a mistake by choosing that over having a family.
It appears that people, increasingly, have a hard time seeing the world simply for what it is. We see it through the lens of sacrifices and choices. We see the person with the physique we want and think that they must hate life because they no longer know how good cake and doughnuts taste. And maybe they look across the room at someone like me, with my average physique, and think about my lack of willpower.
Can we ever stop and just accept that both of us might just be content and happy with our choices. And so I return to my three questions.
How do you see yourself? – This is just a gut-check honesty question. When you look in the mirror and look at yourself, what do you see? Who are you, to you? Do you see yourself as someone who sacrifices for everyone else, cares for everyone else, is strong enough to put yourself first? What do you see? As I look in the mirror, the answer to this question can often be misleading. The answer, usually, is who I want to see. I answer blind to my own biases and faults. I will seldom say, I see a selfish person who wishes more people said thank you. I just do not want to admit to myself that, the words thank you…are powerful to me. I won’t say to myself, I feel taken advantage of. I struggle to say compliments too. I struggle to be real and admit good things too. I don’t always say, I’m a good coach. The rabbit hole this question often leads me down is one where at the end, all I say is I can be better.
And so I go into the second question…
How do others see you? – It’s easy to lie on this one and say that they see you as a great person, caring, loving…a great friend, spouse, parent. It is easy to sidestep this question and think long and hard about how big the category of “others” really is. Stop and really focus on those out there that just might not see you in the best light. Accept your highlights. Build up that personal highlight reel as you ponder this question, but don’t neglect the slip-ups and mistakes that have been made. Don’t forget the people you might have hurt, intentional or not. How do they see you? Have their wounds healed? If we want to grow at all, we have to look at all sides of who we are. Sometimes, the hurt was necessary. That is why there is the third question…
Are you happy with both answers? – As I stated at the beginning, we are often defined by the sacrifices that we make. We are known for giving things up so that we can do other things. That is a fact of life. We cannot do all things at once. And so, we have to also be content with how we answer questions 1 and 2. If we can look at our answers to those questions and be happy with them, then we are on a solid path. If my actions hurt someone, but I understand they had to happen…that the pain is a result of a necessary sacrifice for my growth into a bigger, better person, then I can accept it. If I am not happy with my answers to questions 1 and 2, then I know that changes have to be made. Changes have to take place, and I am the only one that can make those changes happen.
And so the faith workout, the challenge of our faith is to add one more layer to these questions. I do not have to change the questions, but I do have to answer them through the scope of Christ and Scripture. As I address the question about how I see myself and how others see me, I am seeking Christ in both of those answers. I mean that literally. I am forced to ask myself, can I see Christ working through me, can others? Am I happy with that answer?