How do you see yourself?

Certainly our opinion of our physical appearance matters. Messages from family and friends mix together with subtle and hugely overt valuations based upon body type and various standards of beauty. We then internalize and process these messages and draw conclusions about ourselves which impact how we move through the world. Watch this video, and then let’s continue the conversation…

Clearly these women were impacted by the stark difference between how they described themselves and how complete strangers, after only a brief meeting, described them. Seemingly without exception the descriptions of others were softer, radiating greater openness to others and peace with self. What a gift this became for participants.

I wonder how else this principle might be applied. I wonder if we similarly judge more harshly our personality quirks and foibles. What if we had a way to receive warm affirmations from others of what they see and appreciate in us, holding that alongside our own views, and allowing them to inform one another? the exercise in the video included an interpreter, someone who listened to both descriptions and then sketched what was heard.

This exercise can be used in coaching, spiritual direction and counseling, where an individual (it also works with groups) is invited to self-describe. Then outside observers are asked to give a separate description without any collaboration or comparison. The coach then is in the position of reflecting back what was heard in both descriptions, literally sketching out the images that have been offered, and then exploring the similarities and differences and walking with the client toward new insight into themselves, greater appreciation and love for self, and thus more compassion toward self and freedom and peace in life.

Organizations (businesses, non-profits, churches) can benefit from a similar exercise.

Less formally, friends could do this for one another. In the simplest terms, at church camp we frequently have kids give one another “warm fuzzies” – brief notes of affirmation – “What I see and appreciate about you is…” These are incredibly powerful for many, to the degree that friends of mine have held on to theirs for 35 years and longer.

  • How might you benefit from a neutral set of eyes on your life, highlighting beauty you are unable or unwilling to see?
  • When will you be ready to invite someone to facilitate this new growth for you?

The church is a community of travelers

The church is meant to be a community where each person can find safe space to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, without making it unsafe for others in the process. Each of us need time, space, and permission to be who we are at each moment. We need to be allowed to feel our feelings and think our thoughts, and even have a place to engage in conversation about these things. The role of church leadership is to help equip people for the journey of faith, not to make the journey for them or even to lay out every stop along the way. The only limit is that in your journey you cannot demean, abuse or oppress others as they make their journey. Together we learn how to pack for the journey, learning to consider what is needed, and what is just extra baggage and dead weight – but the ultimate choice of what to bring is up to each person. We describe the journey as we and others have made it, so some things will be familiar along the way. We tell them where the “port keys” are, so they know that no matter where they end up, getting back can be a short trip. And we travel, some on one road, others on another.

The different paths often parallel, then diverge, and later intersect. One has a tough climb, while another is on an easy descent. Some are resting in the valley, while others are taking glory in the summit for a moment. Sometimes a particular spot is simply a rest stop along someone’s way. We give them food and water and a place to rest. We listen to their story, and share some of ours. Then we wish them well as they travel on. We certainly do not begrudge their departure, nor think it signals our failure, any more than their arrival signaled our success. The journey is theirs to make. Success or failure of any given venture will not be known until the journey’s end, when all things are weighed by the one who is Way, Truth and Life – in whom we journey, in whom we trust, in whom we live.