Our two oldest daughters paid Jan and I a tremendous compliment the other day. They said that we’d given them the gift of self-awareness. By that they meant that we’ve taken the time to do adequate self-reflection and, as a result, to make personal and marital changes necessary to grow. This has resulted in changes they have noticed.

I couldn’t help wondering what some of those changes were. I’m almost afraid to ask. But I know that while we perceive ourselves one way, others perception of us reflects more reality than we want to admit. Sometimes others perceptions are certainly wrong. But more often than not, there is some truth in what they see and say about us. So even if what they see or say is just partially correct, it’s still partially correct. What’s most uncomfortable in trying to become self-aware is that others are more than willing to make sure you are aware of your problems, and very unwilling to become aware of their own. It’s frustrating. After thirty years of ministry, I’ve got boat loads of stories about this.

A friend of mine calls this whole awareness thing, “Looking beneath the iceburg.” He says we have to ask ourselves honestly and frequently, “Why do I think that, why did I do that, why do I feel that?” Dan Allendar once said feelings are the window to the soul. They tell us a lot about ourselves. But so do our actions. Do we take the time to actually consider these things? More often than not, I don’t think so. It’s terrifying to discover that some of what I don’t like in others, is actually part of who I am myself. Some of the people who are the least understanding of others, are the most demanding that others understand them. They are also, in my experience, the most least aware. Does that make sense? That’s a lot of “most leasts” and it can be confusing.

Here are four ways to become more self aware: (1) Be willing to risk asking, “Why do I think, act, and feel the way I do?” Then take the time to ponder it. (2) Take others negative reactivity and gracious responses to you seriously. Even if people’s reaction, or kind words, are flawed, they can tell you something. (3) Run to Jesus work on the cross when you become aware of difficult things. Let the cross determine the depth of his love for you and the resurrection his capability to answer your prayer. You are loved by the king of the universe! If you have the accolades of the king, why worry about the critique of the paupers! His dying love can give you the courage to be more self-aware and make changes as necessary. (4) Be patient with yourself, it’s a life long journey. Enjoy it. Celebrate and acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses.