Today’s culture almost makes it impossible for people to be labeled as “bad.” Whether it’s a particular skill, a subject at school or some kind of athletic competition, our culture tries to capture the good in everyone, by eliminating the bad. There are definitely some upsides to this.
For example, I think kids growing up today are willing to try more things. My own children have had significantly varied experiences without the fear of being labeled as bad -- they’ll try to sing, enter a talent show, play a sport and so forth. In the same way, the “everyone is a winner” concept also creates confidence so that children who struggle in one area can be encouraged to grow since they are “good” at that particular event/activity/subject etc... Not being bad can be good.
But not being bad, can also be very bad. Telling everyone they’re good can eliminate the desire for excelling. In the Pixar movie about a family of superheroes who are trying to live normal lives, The Incredibles, Mrs. Incredible tries to encourage her son Dash (who is frustrated because he can’t enter school races because of his super human speed) by saying, “Dash, everyone is special.” Dash turns away and mutters under his breath, “In other words, no one is special.” He understood that when everyone is labeled good at the same thing, than no one can really rise to the top. The motivation for excelling is taken away.
There also seems to be a lack of overall personal growth when I’m already good at something. For example, if I’m being told I’m really good at math and, with little effort I’m getting a C-, why would I work any harder to improve my grade? Barring just a natural desire to do better, receiving praise and awards for a C- may be sufficient for my psyche. I’ve seen this response to praise from many more students over the past 14 years, than I’ve seen students try to up their game because of being good.
At the end of the day, I believe being bad at some things is probably one of the best realities we can face. It’s good to know, and to think about the things at which we aren’t very capable. The problem is, most of us don’t like to see our flaws, or at least when we do, we certainly don’t like dwelling on them for very long.
I am confident the Overboard Life requires constant, and honest evaluation of our own lives. And here are three benefits to honestly evaluating our abilities:
- Humility is crucial for our spiritual, mental and emotional growth. We live in a world where egos abound, but the source of GODliness rests in “God” not in us! If you want to live an Overboard Life that reflects God more than you, you’ll have to embrace a healthy dose of humility to keep the right perspective. Both Peter and James reminds us, that “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” Humility is the starting point for personal growth.
- Health comes from understanding the whole picture. When you think about your physical body, you are most healthy when you are addressing issues in every part of your body. You can’t just exercise and eat garbage. But eating well without exercise is also a no-win prospect. Total health comes from observing good nutritional habits, proper supplementation, regular exercise and healthy amounts of sleep and rest. In the same way, understanding your total person, strengths and weaknesses, leads to a healthier you. When you know what you can or can’t do well, you’ll be better able to tackle projects and work with others. I also find I beat myself up less when I’m honest about struggles. If I know I can’t cook, I don’t beat myself up when I’m in the kitchen and things don’t quite turn out right.
- Help will come when you know where you need help! By honestly assessing my personal areas of weakness, I can seek the help I need for growth. Back to the body for a second. When I announced I was going to run a half marathon with my wife in October, I reached out to my running friends and asked for help. I didn’t know how to train, how much to run or not run, how often to rest and so on. My running friends (a psychotic group if ever I’ve met one!) have helped me beef up my running regimen so that I will be ready in October. If you are able to identify some character flaws or areas where you struggle to succeed, finding help is a whole easier when you know what you need help with!
By recognizing these three benefits to personal evaluation, I eliminate the need to beat myself up for my mistakes or shortcomings. Being humbled is a good thing. Improving my overall health is a good thing. Finding help is a good thing, and all of these will ultimately help me live life outside the boat more effectively.
A few months back Traci and I visited Southern California for a personal growth seminar called “Ultimate Leadership.” It’s put on by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and is a great experience for honest, deep and deeply personal self-evaluation. Before we went out to the 5-day event, we were given a large questionnaire to fill out and one of the questions dealt with our flaws and weaknesses. Here is how I answered their questions about being self-aware regarding my flaws:
“I’m pretty self-aware when it comes to my flaws. I try to surround myself with others who can fil in the gaps. Biggest flaws that affect my leadership style:
*Crappy with details
* Enjoy pressure...so I wait to the last minute
* Overly optimistic
* Lousy with time boundaries
* Not confrontational enough
The list could certainly be longer, but those were the first five to pop into my head. I have to work really hard to keep details organized in my life. I can manage them, but it takes a lot of effort and often requires help from my wife. I excel under pressure, but sometimes I put everyone under the same burden of pressure simply because I put things off for too long. Optimism is a good thing, but it’s possible to be overly optimistic. I would have been one of those guys playing music on the deck of the Titanic believing that everything was going to work out ok! It’s easy for me to stop everything I’m doing to help a friend or just to enjoy hanging out and swapping stories. But staying up until 1am, while getting up at 5:55am every day, can radically effect my productivity the next day. I can give too much time to some things/people, and not enough to others that are more deserving of my time -- I can be really bad with time boundaries. And my wife pointed out that I’m often not confrontational enough when it comes to certain relationships. Sometimes it’s far easier for me to just get it done myself, than to confront someone on their own mistakes (almost like not embracing the truth of this blog post for others!) or to hold someone’s feet to the fire when they have made a mistake.
So there, there’s a partial list of things I’m bad at. I’m ok with my flaws and if you really need to know more of them, feel free to ask! What about you? Are you ok with being bad at some stuff? Are you comfortable with your short-comings and weaknesses? Embrace those areas of your life where you struggle, as much as you embrace those areas of your life where you don’t. Humility, healthy and help await those who can evaluate themselves honestly and it will require all three to walk on water!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!