It's easy for us to lie to ourselves. When we've lied long enough, it's easy to believe it's true.
When I ask people how many of you battle with significant self-deception, something like 3% raise their hands. But when I ask who knows someone who's a good singer, or good manager, or good communicator, but they're not, all kinds of hands go up.
A lot of us are self-deceived, and many of us are self-deceived to the point we don't realize it.
I want to talk about creating a culture of self-awareness, or a culture of high-feedback.
Those who don't know don't know they don't know.
Many of us are very self-deceived. The higher you rise in any organization, the more difficult it will be to get people tell you the truth, especially in church world, because nobody lies in church world.
In where I come from in the south they say, "Well bless your heart." What they really mean is, "You're an idiot."
The problems you don't know about are the problems you can't fix.
My wife told me after several years, "Craig, put down the box." I was like, "What are you talking about?" When I spoke I looked like I was carrying a box.
Because we're so full of love, we rarely create a culture of truthful feedback.
Three Principles of Self-Deceptions
- We as leaders have a limitless capacity for self-deception.
Perhaps the greatest example in Scripture is with Bathsheba and David. Nathan tells the story about a rich man stealing a poor man's lamb. David is indignant, and Nathan tells him he's the rich man.
- The longer we believe the lies, the harder it is to hear the truth.
Psalms 36:2 - For in his own eyes he flatters himself to much to detect or hate his sin.
I really believed I was good at interpersonal communications. People told me I was warm and friendly on stage but not in person. People over and over tried to tell me lovingly, but I just wouldn't listen. One day, my small group members re-enacted the way I treated people. Finally I saw it. So I got coaching on how to do it better.
There are a lot of you who very likely have had someone in your organization trying to tell you something about your leadership, and you're not listening.
That's especially true in the younger generation. We have not told the emerging generation the truth. You have to work extra hard to be coachable, to posture yourself in a position where you want to learn.
- The leader's lack of self-awareness is the leader's barrier.
I used to think I was good at delegating. I was good at delegating tasks, not delegating authority. Delegating tasks creates followers. Delegating authority creates leaders.
So often in the church world we're quick to issue blame for any of our problems, not enough money, they don't serve, wrong location, etc.
I've trained myself to never say, they won't. Anytime I hear another leader say, "They won't," I stop and correct them and say, "I have not led them to."
Uncovering the Truth about You
Psalms 139:23-24 - 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 of everlasting.
I used to use a lot of edgy humor in my messages. I kept getting complaints, but I just chalked it up to stuffy, legalistic church people. Finally one guy just asked me to pray. I half-heartedly said I would. I prayed about it, and the next Sunday my oldest daughter had her first Sunday in big people's church. I looked over at her about to tell an off-color joke.
Proverbs 15:31-32 - He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
The more I tend to believe that I'm right, the more likely I might be wrong. Just like Peter says he's never going to deny Jesus like everyone else.
- Build a team that craves and gives helpful feedback.
If you're a senior leader, it starts with you. I get feedback after my first message. I get feedback before my first message. We build this into our entire process. It's in our hiring process. We have people prepare a 10 minute talk for 10 minutes and then give them feedback. We want to see how they receive feedback. We have them give the other candidates feedback.
If you're a senior leader, people are afraid of you. You have to go ask for feedback specifically
- Implement annual 360° evaluations for every team member.
I think we need to have anonymous feedback. It needs to be anonymous, because that's when the truth really comes out. It's so helpful, and it's so incredibly painful.
I had two consecutive years where people said I was disengaged from the staff, that I was more concerns with mentoring other senior pastors. For two years many leaders in our organization said I was distracted. Even though my heart was still in LifeChurch, my head was divided.
It's one of the most painful and most helpful things I have ever done.
- Build a team that craves and gives helpful feedback.
James 1:22 - Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
What have others been trying to say to you or show you? What has God been trying to say or show you that you've been too proud to listen to.
Some of the most common things I see:
- You're a workaholic. Give your family some attention. When my youngest daughter was three years old, God rang my bell, she said, "Daddy, you don't live here. You live up at the church." My wife asked if we could have a meal without me typing on my phone.
- Some of you will do what I did years back. I became a full-time pastor, and a part-time follower of Christ. I'd pray when I prayed publicly. I'd study when I was preparing for a sermon. My self-worth was based on last week's numbers.
- Some of you are looking at some things you should not be looking at. You're telling yourself it's not a big deal. You're not telling anybody. But your sin will find you out.
Some of you need to go repent to your spouse or your children. If we build big churches and lose our children, that is a failure. The more I humble myself and listen to God, the more broken I am, the better my relationship with my spouse is, the better my family is, and the better my church is.
There are so many people who continue to fight against the truth, when it's the truth that will set you free.
Personally if there's some part of your life God is trying to show you is not where it should be, don't fight against it, embrace it.