In an earlier post, I was sharing some thoughts about how self-awareness leads to self-control. A lack of self-awareness keeps us from being able to identify issues that need to be changed, and a lot of times, those issues center around what I would call our “defaults.”
All of us have defaults – actions and behaviors that we revert to without thinking. Defaults … things we do when we we’re lacking discipline. If we’re wired to have a “short fuse” then we’ll lose our temper and spout off if we haven’t kept our heart and mind in check. If we’re wired to worry, we’ll let our thoughts spin out of control until it physically makes us ill. We go to our defaults in the absence of self-control. These defaults shouldn’t be entirely static, as we hope and trust that God is growing and maturing us. But each of us have some not-so-great defaults that we slide into when we’re not practicing self-control.
When we’re not self-aware and not disciplined, these defaults become a huge factor in how we impact those around us:
Kem Meyer who wrote a book called “Less Clutter, Less Noise” said in that book “Your life bears a message of hope and redemption. But, before people in your world encounter your message, they encounter you.” How we are perceived, how we choose to interact, and how we carry ourselves with our nonverbals – they shape the environment around us and people’s experience with us way more than what we want to be known for.
A famous philosopher once said “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” I guess it might be a stretch to call the movie character Captain Jack Sparrow a famous philosopher, but the quote is an interesting one. “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
How do we choose to engage, what are our defaults, and how disciplined are we in controlling those defaults in our demeanor? As I said in an earlier post on self awareness, the idea of “self” seems strange within the context of a spiritual fruit list, but God wants us to actively participate…
It’s not self-mastery – realizing that we are not to boast in the things that change, but rather give God credit for that transformation.
It’s also not fake – this can’t be divorced from an internal change. You can’t equate this to “being professional” or “acting grown up” – there are similarities, but this needs to be a personal transformation, not a mask.
We need to pay attention to how self-control plays a role in our lives. Saying “that’s just how I am” won’t cut it – so what do we do?
1. Realize which of the self-awareness blind spots are heart issues.
Proverbs 4:23-26: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Some of our blind spots are simply caused by personality – we act a certain way with pure motives but a lacking in certain disciplines or natural sensitivities, and just need to have more discipline and awareness in those areas. But some flow from a heart issue. We speak harshly or lose our patience because we haven’t developed our hearts to trust and experience peace through that faith in God’s activity. We gossip because we are insecure and want to be the center of attention. We need to identify those heart issues and deal with them.
2. Realize that what you say IS what you mean, at least to those who can’t read your mind.
When I quoted Jack Sparrow, many of you might have cringed at the word “attitude.” Even our attitude toward the word attitude can be a problem at times. We don’t like it because it’s synonymous with immaturity – you can just hear a mom talking to her child, saying “don’t give me that attitude!” Sometimes we have an attitude when talking about the topic of attitude, but the truth is, it’s about choice. A choice in how we respond. How will we let ourselves react to something. If we strip it down, attitude and maturity do go together. Maturity brings about an ability to choose a response, and that is self-control.
3. Realize that it’s not just what you say, and make a conscious effort to display yourself differently
Have you ever felt the mood in a room shift because of someone’s nonverbal countenance? I think we’ve all been there – no words are said, but you can just feel the tension rise as someone’s body language expresses frustration or displeasure. Have you ever been that person who creates that tension by your body language? Choose to display yourself differently and demonstrate self-control.
4. Know that these areas impact those around you in a HUGE way. You determine their experience and ability by the way you act
I’ve said before that, when including someone on a team that I lead, I would absolutely choose someone with less skill but a better control of themselves and a more positive attitude over the skilled person with a bad attitude. You can train an eager learner to be more skilled. But only the individual can surrender and choose to let God train their heart.
5. Believe that these areas impact you spiritually
When we remember who we are in Christ, our demeanor changes! We become people of gratitude and joy.
In scripture, we’re instructed:
Philippians 2:14-15 : Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
Proverbs 17:22 : A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Philippians 4:8-9 : Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
As you go about your week this week, ask yourself these questions:
– How self-aware am I?
– Do I recognize and understand my defaults?
– Am I willing to let God transform them?
– Will I make changes not just for my sake but for the sake of those around me?
– How will I start today?