This time of year is perfect for intentional thinking, pausing, and assessing. Self-awareness has been one of the best gifts life experience (and YouthWorks job training) has given me. It is immensely valuable to be able to sit down, look inside myself and my life, name what I’m crazy about and what is driving me crazy, dig deeper until I reach the why, and then make a plan for change. Just writing about it gets me pumped up, despite the fact that the practice itself is very calm, quiet, and controlled.
I went into this school year with a couple specific purposes. Firstly, I wanted to create more space in my life for creative pursuits and rest, more space for the Spirit to work. Finally, after years of over-committing and job-accepting I am starting to really believe that my productivity does not equal my worth and that I am not loved based on how much I am doing. (Could it be true? I think it is.) Secondly, I wanted to intentionally pursue friendships with people who inspire, encourage, and entertain me. I thought about the people in my life who I would enjoy being friends with (mostly people who I am already loose friends with but what to be more intentional about getting to know).
Both of these goals have been going really well. God is good and He has been filling me up in what I believe is a time of rest and preparation for what comes next. He’s also opened my eyes to some unexpected friends that I have really enjoyed spending time with.
Recently (like, in the past two days), I have been thinking about the qualities my soul craves in a close friend, a bosom buddy, if you will. I think it’s worth naming these qualities and characteristics, for my own benefit and as a way to love my friends. “I love that you…”
Lately it’s been made clear that one of the biggest turn-ons for me when it comes to other humans is humility. I’ve known this for a while when it comes to leaders, but it’s true for friends (and – dare I dream?! – a romantic partner), as well. It has always been a huge turn-off for me when pastors say things like, “Some people do this and that and you should be better.” I feel in the presence of someone I want to learn from when I hear, “WE often do this and that and WE should be better.” Are ya picking up what I’m putting down?
It makes sense that the same thing I value in others is something I value (and want to cultivate) in myself. I think one led to the other actually. It has been a calming transition in my life to go from a defensive position trying to defend my “coolness” and “smartness” and “rightness” toward entertaining the idea that in any given situation or conversation I might actually be the one who is wrong. Noticing this difference in myself has led me to seek out other people who enter into disagreements and discussions with the same humble posture.
I don’t like being wrong. For most of my life being wrong felt like being discovered as a fraud. “See! She doesn’t actually know what we’re talking about or what is going on. She doesn’t actually know Spanish or Dominican culture. She doesn’t actually know how to teach. She’s wrong and a fake!” But the reality and truth is that everyone is wrong sometimes and in every debate and disagreement someone is wrong, and many times it has been me. Entering into conversations with that posture (“Someone is wrong and it could be me,”) has saved me so much grief and enabled me to let go, bow out, and walk away in peace without defending my identity as a Jesus follower, ex pat, Spanish speaker, or teacher.
In fact, I am going to add something to my self-talk statement about being wrong right now. “Someone is wrong and it could be me and that’s okay.” Someone is wrong. It could be me. And that’s okay.
With this in mind, we are not crafting our rebuttals and defenses. We are listening carefully for the truth and we are learning. Now, instead of trying to cover up that I was ever wrong ever in my life, I can listen for the truth in case I am wrong so that I can stop believing a lie and start living in response to the truth.
Here are some questions and reflection prompts on this topic of being wrong and being humble listeners/learners. These could be great to ask during a self-assessment reflection time. I like to sit quietly in a safe and comfortable space (usually cross legged on my bed) and breathe deeply and on purpose. I think one thought or idea or worry through all the way to the end before moving on to another. With these questions it could be helpful to think of a hot button issue in your life right now, an issue or idea on which your position has recently changed or is in the process of changing.
- When someone disagrees with me, does my perception of their whole personhood change? If so, am I making the issue bigger than it deserves to be? Do I equate whether someone agrees or disagrees with me with their worth or value?
- When someone disagrees with me or accuses me of being wrong, do I interrupt them or craft my fiesty response in my head instead of actually listening to what they have to say? How is this doing a disservice to everyone involved?
- What if I am wrong? What would change? What should change?
- Why do I believe what I believe? Where am I getting my information? What is my position based on? Is it a reliable source, tried, tested, and true?
- Can I calmly and respectfully respond right now? If not, should I come back to this discussion later or leave it alone? Which would be most helpful for both of us?
I am not a professional self-assessment guide (is that a thing? can I learn to be one?) by any means. I am just a woman who has learned first hand how life is easier and bigger and better and deeper and more beautiful when we are intentional listeners and learners. I spent many, many years being the talker and the teacher, and trust me, it’s better the other way.