12 Mar '13
Unhealthy avoidance techniques
There is a common methodology for avoiding accountability for our shadow side and that is to become a professional critic of others. All of us have encountered these folks at one time or another – or done the same thing ourselves. They are quick to criticize and distrust, are always questioning motives of others (without doing their homework to validate their distrust), love to become enmeshed with others who are also critics (nothing like another critic to verify our version of reality), love to take on the offenses of others (even when they don’t have the facts and it does not pertain to them) and live in a circle of other unhealthy, distrustful, critical individuals. And yes, there are plenty of these in the church and Christian organizations. They will twist motives, conversations or actions to match their view of reality.
What is really going on behind this behavior is often the justification of their own behavior so that in the critical assessment of others they do not need to do critical assessment of their own shadow side. It is frankly a convenient way to ignore personal issues by focusing on the issues of others. Because everyone has a shadow side, it is not hard to pick it out in others and professional critics will quickly tell other their faults but are unaware or unwilling to deal with their own shadow side. Often the glue that holds their friendships together is not a common mission but a common enemy – someone out there that they can focus their unhappiness, anger or personal unresolved issues on – and it is often a leader because they are visible.
Not only are these unhealthy individuals but they form pockets of unhealthy individuals since they find others who will validate their view of reality and can deeply hurt organizations through their closed circle of opinions and criticisms.
All of us have strengths and all of us have liabilities that come with those strengths. There are many ways of coping with our own shadow side. One is to face it and seek to deal with it – and it is a life-long practice. The other is to do what many do and mask it, ignore it, spiritualize it or focus on the shadow side of others rather than their own. People of deep influence never mask or ignore. They realize that they are people who have a lower nature and that the process of spiritual transformation is that of exegeting ourselves so that we bring all of our lives under the Lordship of Christ, especially the shadow side which represents more than anything else the residual of that lower nature.
Often, we resist pressing into our shadow side because we are ashamed that we even struggle with one. This is a misunderstanding of God’s work in our lives. Every one of us is a work in progress, every one of us lives with the liabilities of being human and therefore imperfect and limited in our understanding of ourselves and those around us. Paul understood this when he said in Philippians 3:16, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” God does not expect perfection, simply obedience to where he has brought us at this point in our lives.
Furthermore, humble individuals are transparent about their strengths and weakness, their areas of struggle and their liabilities. Those who pretend they have it all together fool themselves but not those around them. Our influence is not gained by pretending to be something we are not but by transparency in our walk with God and the issues we face in our lives. People of deep influence don’t hide who they are or the struggles they have. In fact, it is precisely because they are honest about their own struggles that we can identify with them and it is their commitment to live with authenticity that draws us to them.