One of the great honors of being a high school teacher is being selected by a student to deliver their senior recognition in front of adoring parents, guardians, family, friends and classmates. Unless that student is one of your most reserved students and an identical twin. And not like a twin that eventually you can tell apart from their sibling due to style or personality. Nope. I’m pretty confident if you Googled “identical twins” their picture would appear.

On the day of Senior Recognition, shame permeated my soul as I took the platform, grasping for meaningful words and struggling to make eye contact with the correct twin in the audience. The best I could do was divide my attention between the two. Thank goodness schools don’t select a Worst Teacher of the Year.

Years later, I experienced something similar. I had just come on the staff as the student pastor of a rapidly growing church. It was graduation season, and one of my first assignments was to connect with graduating students and their families for our church’s Senior Recognition. Having no relationship with the group of students, I fumbled through their recognition (I think even messing up a name or two). In an instant that shame surfaced, feeling as though I had marred a special moment for these students and their families—again.

Unbeknownst to me, an emotional blind spot had developed. So the following year, when I was again tasked with our senior recognition, I masked this secret shame and failure with defensiveness. For a moment, my emotions hijacked rationality. The blind spot was exposed and had to be dealt with. And it would be Terry Linhart’s book, The Self-Aware Leader: Discovering Your Blind Spots to Reach Your Ministry Potential, that would get to the crux of my reaction.

If we’re honest, we all have blind spots that cause toxic reactions—hidden character, personality or emotional shortcomings that are personal and professional ticking time-bombs.

Left unresolved, they will cause disruption and destruction in our lives and the lives around us. The good news: toxic reactions do not have to become your or my new normal. We can ask God to examine our lives and reveal blind spots that are threatening our ability to be Christlike at work and in the home. Here’s what Terry has encouraged me to stop: [1]

1) Stop covering insecurities with a variety of masks: fear, conceit, anger and withdrawal.

While it’s tempting to conform to cultural norms, such as covering our insecurities or finding solace in the blame game, we’re able to be made new in Christ. But laying down our facade is different than laying down our true self. To do that, we must know who we really are: the baggage we carry and how we measure our worth. “For no one can give up what [they do] not possess.” [2] Yes, it is a challenge to explore whether you’re being conformed to the world or to Christ, but it’s worth the time spent in reflection, accountability and possibly even counseling to be able to accept and live out that you are “beloved, deeply loved, cherished, forgiven and gifted” by God.

2) Stop duct taping fruit to trees and calling it fruitful.

A worldly-superpower many of us have mastered is using our personality to be high-functioning. It’s effective… until it’s not. Before long, it zaps every ounce of our energy, hurling us toward burnout because we’re devoting “ourselves to sustain and defend this false self.” Without realizing it, we spend more time in self-protection mode, championing our skills and abilities, at the expense of real spiritual maturation. Without intervention, we’re destined to lose real momentum and inflect our brokenness upon others.

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3) Stop ignoring my reactions.

“If we want to listen, our reactions are telling us a story we need to hear.” Terry is referring to the  imaginary reaction selfie: a mental snapshot of our “in-the-moment responses that flow unfiltered from deep within our being.” For example, my response, when asked to organize our Senior Recognition. Whatever the reaction may be, whether a facial or bodily one, If we’re serious about maturing, these questions will help us identify our insecurities and expose our ego that slow our momentum as leaders and Christians:

  1. Why did I react that way?
  2. What desires does that reaction reveal?
  3. What are the sources or causes for those desires?
  4. Do those reflect the desires of Christ?
  5. What does God require of me in regards to the reasons for that reaction? [1]

For years, researchers believed a large gash from an iceberg caused the demise of the Titanic. While multiple factors, including the collision with an iceberg, are culpable, a new theory exists to explain the unwarranted mass human casualty. It is now believed that the Titanic may have only tipped roughly 11 degrees, far from the earlier thought 45 degrees, mitigating the urgency to evacuate. What might have been perceived as a small incident by passengers ended in catastrophe. Even Jesus reminds us to “not neglect the more important things,” the things inwardly—things that seem insignificant or irrelevant. Nevertheless, life is about navigating those inward mine-fields and oceans of icebergs. And if we’ll allow God to examine our hearts, we’ll become more Christ-like and emotionally prepared for the days we step on or rub up against our blind spots that tempt us “to spend energy protecting our leadership rather than serving the people we lead.”