Let Others Tell You Who You Are

Published April 29, 2013 by joypatton

This video made by Dove has been widely viewed online. It was a very interesting experiment with a forensic artist. He sketched women as they described themselves to him and then he sketched the same woman based on how someone else described her. The difference was very telling. We don’t do a good job describing ourselves. We make ourselves out to be much worse than we really are. I was reminded of the importance of being known.

Only through community can we see ourselves as we really are. If we relied solely on our own perceptions, our picture of ourselves would be incomplete. I always hated when someone said you are your most rue self when you are alone in the room with no one watching. But The truth is that I rely on others to tell me who I am. Teenagers are always told this is a bad thing, but it is the way God wired us.  I would argue that our interactions with others show more of our true self than isolation.

This past week I struggled with what I was telling myself, and I needed my community to help give me a more accurate view of myself. I decided to step down from a leadership team. After I announced that I was leaving, five of the six leaders also resigned. I told myself it was a reflection of my poor leadership, that I hadn’t done a good job raising up other leaders to come after me. I felt it confirmed that I was not a good shepherd who looked out for the others on the team. It showed that my strong personality made it difficult for anyone else to shine.  The conclusion: I am a bad leader, and I should never lead again. These are the things I told myself.

But I want to share with you what the other five members of the team, my community, told me.  Not as a way of boasting, but as a way of seeing the situation more clearly.
“I forget how good at this you are.”
“You have been such a blessing to me. You are such an example of honesty and authenticity.”
“I keep reflecting on how good you are at this. Not just this, but overall since I have known you.”
“We have all worked well together and I’ve very much enjoyed serving with you.”

Two very different pictures. While the things I told myself may be valid to some degree, they are certainly not the whole truth. I needed my friends to remind me who I was, to show me what they saw. This is what happens when we are known. I have been living in community with these women for over three years. While I am very sad that our time of serving together in this way is ending, my heart is humbled and full of gratitude for these women.

And I also hear God saying to me “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  I have been taught that His voice is more important than all the others.  Yet sometimes he uses other people to get His message across.  I know that I can’t trust my own perceptions to tell the whole truth.  I need community to speak truth to me.  I need God and His Word to remind me who I am.  All of these work together to create an accurate and beautiful picture of who God has made me to be.

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