This past week, I’ve received a lot of evaluation. I’ve asked for most of it. As part of my year one project for my D.Min, I’ve asked the congregation to evaluate two of my sermons. I spent some time yesterday reviewing the questionnaires. They are genuinely helpful, and the feedback has been good overall, but it’s sometimes safer not to know what some people are thinking. It’s amazing how differently people hear the same message. Strange that in all the comments, the ones that I remember are the negative ones. I’ve also had a lot of unsolicited feedback on leadership issues. A lot of it has been great. Some of it is off base, but most of it is constructive. Jim Collins talks about confronting the brutal facts. Not a bad idea at all. I’ve entered the year with heightened expectations of myself. I’ve sometimes found all this feedback a bit overwhelming in the past week. I’ve also been facing some challenging situations – including some individuals and families in need who could, by themselves, absorb all my energy and still want more. All of this to say that I’ve found myself tempted to drift into unhealthy territory. I want to fix all the problems. I want to be liked and appreciated by everyone. I want all the feedback to be positive, and I find it too easy to take things personally. While I need to do my part, and do the best I can, I also need to remember who I’m not. Speaking of John the Baptist, Gordon MacDonald writes:
Knowing who he was not was the beginning of knowing who he was…Those whose private worlds are in disarray tend to get their identities confused. They can have an increasing inability to separate role from person. What they do is indistinguishable from who they are.
Knowing who I’m not allows me to receive feedback without reacting defensively. It allows me to stay secure apart from what others think, even apart from my success and my failure. Henri Nouwen talked about embracing littleness, hiddenness, and powerlessness. That, and finding our identity apart from our role, are all important lessons for leaders to learn. For me to learn.