Looking in the Mirror
February 23, 2016
In 2 Samuel 12:1-13, Nathan confronts David, the King of Israel by using a story. As a storyteller, Nathan acts as a mirror for David, allowing David to see himself … to face the truth about himself. But facing the truth about yourself is difficult. Self-reflection doesn’t come easy.
Facing the Truth takes Courage
It takes courage in at least four ways to face the truth about yourself.
Courage to be humble.
Self-righteous people aren’t able to be self-reflective. Self-righteousness is a defense mechanism. When we focus on the character or actions of others it allows us to ignore our own character and actions. Unless we are humble, we will never be able to take an honest look at ourselves.
“Oh what a coward I am, and what a fool! Only when I have the courage to fully look, clearly to know myself – even the evil of myself – will I admit my need for healing.”
-Walter Wangerin in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
Courage to invite others to speak into your life.
Ironically, self-reflection isn’t something you can do by yourself. We all need other people to help us see ourselves clearly. Another person can act as a mirror for us, showing us things that we can’t see about ourselves.
It’s important, however, to only invite the right people to function this way for us. Some people want to be an authority in the lives of others. They want to tell you what to do to live up to their expectations for you. When you’re doing self-reflection, you don’t need an authority. You need a story teller. You need someone who will help you to understand your own story, will ask you questions, will allow you to find your own answers and draw your own conclusions, and will walk with you on your journey. This kind of friendship is best experienced when it is mutual. If a person is unwilling to allow you to speak into their life, then they probably aren’t a good choice to speak into yours. Friendship is built on mutuality.
Who is your “Nathan,” a “truth-teller” in your life?
“Most people go through their entire lives without anyone, ever, speaking honest, loving, direct words to the most damaging issues in their lives.”
–John Elderidge, Beautiful Outlaw, p. 70
Courage enough to face your shadows.
We all have shadows. ALL OF US! The people who are at the greatest risk of succumbing to their shadows are those who do not acknowledge them and deal with them honestly. This is why humility is so important – we need to embrace the reality of our shadows, and do the hard, continual work of wrestling them into submission to a greater mission.
This starts by naming your shadows. Often we need someone else to help us with this step. After you have identified your shadows, ask “Why is this a shadow for me? Where did it come from?” This usually requires us to dig into our past; the people, experiences, choices, failures, and longings that make us who we are. Understanding why a shadow exists will help us to put it in it’s proper place.
“Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see… the more you live out of your shadow self, the less capable you are of recognizing the persona you are trying to protect and project.”
–Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 12
Remember, EVERYONE has shadows. EVERYONE! Richard Rohr clarifies the difference between those who deal with them and those who don’t below.
“The general pattern in story and novel is that heroes learn and grow from encountering their shadow, whereas villains never do.”
–Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 131
Remember, we do not have to get over our weaknesses. We have to acknowledge them, face them, and be honest about them. When we do that, we open the door for God to be strong in the midst of our weakness.
One of my favorite passages – one I hang onto for dear life is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Courage to embrace your goodness.
Finally, sometimes the truth is about your shadow. But sometimes the truth is about your goodness. We all want to be good, and we’re afraid that we aren’t and can’t be. This fear leads us to experience shame, which leads to isolation. God created us good, in God’s own image. We desire to be loved and to love others, and to experience joy and to help others experience it too. Most of our longings are GOOD, and it’s our shadows that often develop out of a corrupted pursuit of that goodness.
“The Gospel says that you are loved and accepted; hearing the truth is not only hearing the hard words, it is also hearing the powerful words of affirmation – the words of grace.”
– Tom Elenbaas
Some of us have a hard time hearing that we are good and that God actually likes us. This might be because of the influence fo one of our parents, a mistake we made, an addiction we have, experiencing depression, or a failure, or even because of our religious upbringing. And if there isn’t a specific reason, none of us escape the constant message of our culture that says that we are not good enough, that we are lacking unless we achieve some moving, invisible goal.
Here’s what the Bible says about that:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
– Ephesians 2:8-10
So, here’s your opportunity to get real, get self-reflective, and take the mask off. It starts with two invitations.
Invite God to show you the truth.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Invite someone to be your mirror, and be willing to be a mirror for someone else.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.