DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Importance of Checking Our Blind Spots

Written by: on January 12, 2021

“Brake”

“Braaaake”

“Ian, BRAKE!”

These are the words I spoke to my 15-year-old, newly permitted driver as he remained ever focused on the left and right lanes before him but failed to check his blind spot and see the semi-truck he was about to merge into as he drove on the I-205 to I-5 on ramp. Thankfully, he did finally brake. After the moment passed, he looked at me and said, “Mom, you didn’t need to yell.”

So often in life I find that when I neglect checking my blind spots, that over time, others who see them clearly come to feel threatened by them. They may have either remained silent about them or warned me about them in some round-about polite way a number of times. Eventually though, anxious, self-preservation emotions take over and the “yelling” begins. When this happens, rarely is it productive to bring about holistic change (except maybe, when driving a car).

Recently, I posted a picture in my Instagram feed and wrote: “Idolatry at its finest. Seems even a lost election can’t topple that idol. Christian nationalism will always be offensive to me.” I then added a side note, that I did not vote for either main party candidate, and if the 4×4 was covered with Biden’s name, my observation would be the same.

Within minutes, I had an individual begin commenting on the post. I was told if I knew what was happening with China I would think differently, that the media does not dictate final election results, and I should “take the plank out of my own eye” first.

I tried to respond to each comment with an even tone. But after a few back and forths, it was clear we were not debating the ideological position of Christian nationalism. Rather the “conversation” became more of a critique of my individual ignorance and being. Therefore, I deleted the post and followed up with a DM to the individual explaining why I’d deleted the post. The conversation continued to primarily critique me as an individual. And again, rather than continue to debate the issue of me, I walked away promising to examine the judgments laid before me, which included: hypocritical, opinionated, a know-it-all (elitist), unloving, judgmental, self-centered, and emotionally unstable (as a result of my lack of proper understanding of biblical scripture).

One of my spiritual disciples is to listen to what others say about me. I do this because I need to. In my head, I hear the worst about myself. The judgments I place on myself are harsh. The things I say to myself are not things I’d say to others. It is difficult for me to see good within. To figure out if what I was hearing in my head was true, I began listening to others. I then filter their observations of me and decide what is really true. What stays, what goes, and what needs work. The recent critiques waged against me are different than the critiques I’ve been hearing for the past 1.5 years. In fact, they sound very much like the ones I wage against myself. They are rooted in shame, and while I could brush them off as mean-spirited and untrue, I would miss an opportunity for growth. Thus, I carefully considered this person’s critiques, prayed, and consulted with trusted individuals who love me AND hold me accountable. I then shared my “taking the plank out of my eye” via my Facebook account as a way of honoring that space and holding myself accountable to myself and others.

I would venture many of us have few, if any, spaces where we are given the opportunity to examine our blind spots in the context of trustworthy and grounded relationships. This lack of opportunity forces us to hide, to put on our masks and work diligently to pretend we have our work, ministry, theology, ideologies, and more, all figured out. Having safe spaces to be wrong, grow, and transform is limited so we keep forging our way forward on a path that leads to the further demise of joy, relationships, and personal growth.

In their book, An Everyone Culture, leadership education researchers and practitioners, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, highlight three business organizations where human development is at the forefront of the cultural ethos. Grounded in human development and modern neurological development studies, Kegan and Lahey propose adult “mental complexity tends to increase with age… (and does so by) reaching plateaus that represent different ways of knowing the world.”[1] The three adult plateaus are the socialized mind, the self-authoring mind, and the self-transformed mind.[2]Progression through these levels happens in a dedicated community where circumstances are continually uncomfortable and uncertain. The organizations that develop their employees maintain such an environment by having relational, technical, and structural supports in place to foster human development. One key component of develpoment involves having employees acknowledge their blind spot or “immunity to change.”[3] By examining their blind spots in a strategic and intentional way, employees are able to understand not only their own blind spots, but also the blind spots of others. With this knowledge, employees companywide help facilitate each other’s ability to overcome blind spots in safe and healthy ways so individuals can become their best self. The benefits from such development are vast and include the increasing success of the organization.

I wonder what the world would look like if we created more safe places for our blind spots to be examined. How would our social media feeds look if instead of blasting others for short comings, we were able to dialogue about our shared inability to live into the best version of ourselves? What might our workplaces, homes, and churches look like if vulnerability, accountability, and embracing weakness were integrated into our everyday practices? I wonder if we might become not just the best version of ourselves, but actually become more like Jesus? That, to me, seems to be the thing most lacking in the American church to date. How do we get there? According to Kegan and Lahey, as well as Jesus, it can be done, one person, one organization, and one intentional step “into the messy” at a time.

 

 

[1] Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2016) 60-61.

[2] Ibid., 62.

[3] Ibid., 201.

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

17 responses to “The Importance of Checking Our Blind Spots”

  1. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Thanks for walking us through your process of discerning true blindspots vs unhelpful critiques that are distanced from truthfulness.

    This week’s authors lay out a stunning case for a healthy culture that seems to necessitate two very uncommon skills. The first skill is offering constructive feedback that illuminates anothers’ blindspots in a helpful way. The second skill is graciously receiving and then mining that feedback for the gold. Both are so important and so, so rare.

    In my read, the book made some significant assumptions about people’s capacity to enflesh both of these skills well. And yet, it inspired me to imagine the kind of culture where this gracious give-and-take or back-and-forth is a commitment that is so deeply rooted in an organization’s belief in the potential of human formation. It’s causing me to wonder how we grow our own and others’ capacity to do this blindspot work well.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      As I read the book, I kept thinking this type of environment is crazy rare. It takes a special type of leadership team and buy in from the employees to make something like this fly. I love the idea of helping shape one another through constructive and loving feedback. It seems key obstacles include ego and shame. Those shadowy demons have to named and tackled by all involved in order for the give and take to happen well. In my experience w churches, these are not demons that like to be acknowledged. How do you envision growing our capacity in this area?

      • mm Jer Swigart says:

        You name two accurate demons, in my opinion. These two powers drastically diminish our ability to offer and receive the kind of feedback that is necessary for our growth. We have to do the work as leaders and with our teams to model vulnerability, demonstrate teachability, and showcase the potency of offering and receiving grace.

  2. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Darcy, I was in a conversation last week with my associate pastor regarding the same issue. We were discussing what it would look like for the church itself to be a place where we can openly examine our blindspots and to learn and grow from them. What it would look like for the church to be a space where failure wasn’t just welcomed, but encouraged as we learn and grow together. What it would look like to dispel the myths of perfection that fill not just our churches, but our lives as well.

    Like Shawn mentioned in his post, it’s pushing against culture. It’s rewriting the narratives that we’ve put in place that serve as tools of oppression and subjugation. But challenging the narratives always creates an issue as identity is called into question. When the space is empty, who knows what will slide into the vacuum.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      “It’s rewriting the narratives that we’ve put in place that serve as tools of oppression and subjugation. ” I wonder what role keeping the masses dependent upon a particular leadership has in maintaining the status quo? Is there fear in leaders that they might lose face, platform, or position if people actually become more fully like Christ? That their position as being seen “closer to Jesus than the masses” will be threatened when others become more fully who God created them to be? That’s a lot of questions. You have me thinking… culture change is brutal when identities have to be rewritten. Have you seen this done well outside of these unicorn organizations that we’ve read about?

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    I see a great value in knowing one’s blind spots. I can appreciate the exercise. Looking back at my own life I have often asked myself knowing the out come of some of my decisions and the blindspots involved would I have made different choices. I am surprised that in some cases despite my blindspots or narrow view of things it would not have change the outcome or the decision I made; but it would have made the decision easier. It also would have made me more sensitive to how my decisions effected those around me. Even not learning of my blindspots and biases doesn’t often change my convictions but it does make me more sensitive to those of others. As you explore the blindspots in your life what have you seen a shift in your convictions and decision making process?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      This recent experience invited me to stop seeing “the other” in a harsh way. In taking out my own plank, I had to acknowledge that I am just as “other” as the “other.” In the end, I am human. When all is stripped away, we all just want to be seen, heard, known, and loved. We want to feel safe and know our kids are safe. We want to be able to pursue our dreams and give back to this world in some small way. We want to know we mattered.

      I’m trying hard to see the world through the “other’s” lens- regardless of who they are, and am realizing there is a large degree of nuance at play, as each person and each story is unique. I’m learning to loosely hold the paradox of uniqueness with the commonalities embedded in established systems. I haven’t figured out how to call a spade a spade, so to say, without moving toward dualistic thinking though. I keep trying to find the third way, the way of Jesus, through the muck and mire. That requires taking a step off my self-righteous soap box and getting proximate to those I’m different from, to listen and learn and then move forward in a way that honors the humanity others.

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Darcy, for the believer, a sense of identity and security to hear (assumedly) allow us to hear constructive, sharpening truth. Where might nonbelievers turn for a sense of self and security that allows this radical candor?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Shawn,
      I’d argue that just because we are believers, few are able to embrace our identity in a way that allows “constructive, sharpening truth.” Believer or not, I find that getting to the root of shame is a key piece to receiving constructive feedback and moving forward in freedom. The language around that varies based on the belief system. If it’s true across all belief systems, then is it Truth? Maybe. That is something I consider to ponder.

      • mm Jer Swigart says:

        For what it’s worth, it has been my experience that those far from adherence to the Christian faith are much better at receiving and internalizing feedback than Christians. Makes me wonder what in the American experience of Christianity causes such fragility.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    What you describe so well is the ridiculous gap that exists in our culture between those (of any ideological, political, or theological persuasion,) who are able to be reflective, measured, critical (in the best sense of that word,) and open to new ideas, versus those who are not- those who see anything different as wrong, any critique as judgment, and any opposition as disloyalty. I’ve found there’s no way to have meaningful conversations with someone who’s mind is closed so I rarely try anymore. Certainly trust and respect are important starting points for difficult conversations about someone’s growth. One article I read for my post went heavy into the importance of relationships as the means for developing and discipling people, while also acknowledging the difficulty and complexity of this in an organization like the church. It’s also interesting to see how differently this plays out in individual or one-on-one settings as opposed to community settings. The confession of my tribe’s communion liturgy calls us to remember and acknowledge where we’ve come up short, yet as we pray that prayer, I always wonder if we’re really sure what we’re saying, if we’re really aware of the ways we’ve done what we confess we’ve done.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      John,
      I so love the liturgical confessions. But after years of repeating them, they do sometimes just become words.
      How do we prevent this? Or maybe, if our overall desire of confession is there but our heart isn’t fully in the words, does it still count? I appreciate confession done in community. I think our individualized religion has led to so much of what we see playing out in the public realm. People confess privately to God, live their faith out in a way that’s between “me and God.” But really, those confessions and faith do not translate into the everyday of life. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” may be our downfall. Not that I don’t believe it to be true, but because it gives a pass on the “slow progress of sanctification” as Shawn said. I have mush room to grow, but like you said, I also have little interest in trying to change people’s minds that are hell bent on, well… raising hell by being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.

      • mm John McLarty says:

        Many in my tribe don’t know this- especially in the southern US where our cultural Christianity is much more Calvinist, but Wesleyan theology does not ascribe to “once saved, always saved.” Wesley believed that human free will gave people the option to turn away from God and reject God’s gift of salvation. For me, that’s what makes the confession even more urgent. Sanctification is the continuing process of being saved, working out our salvation. This was the reason behind Wesley’s insistence on accountability in the small group structure. Unfortunately, as we’ve become more individualist and privatized, we’ve lost this component. Hence, the blindspots remain and no one has any real authority to point them out without looking judgmental.

  6. mm John McLarty says:

    And for what it’s worth, the struggle is real when teaching our teens how to drive! We’re a month away from our (God-willing) last road test and this particular 15-year-old has been the hardest to teach. Though we did have a really good parallel parking training yesterday, so there’s that!

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      That’s excellent! I still haven’t taught my now 17-yr old driver how to parallel park! I hoped he’d learn it in drivers ed, but evidently that didn’t happen:/

  7. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Darcy, thank you for your openness. So sorry to hear of the challenge you had in a conversation with someone recently.

    Not everyone is so open, nor willing toward openness (how it can possibly be…liberating). Just today I was chatting with my mom about how liberating it can be (could be, because I’m not there yet) in ‘the acceptance of rejection’.

    Maybe, in ‘the acceptance of rejection’ there is relief. The fight ends. The ‘planning to please’ ends. The desire for those who express the rejection to adjust, ends. And, we may no longer see ‘one rejected’ in the mirror.

    I’m not there. Starting to realise that what gives those-who-reject power, is an unending hope that they will be accepting.

    Love like Christ. And, with the perpetual naysayer, ‘gentle as doves, wise as serpents.’

    Do you remember when you awakened to the acceptance of Christ? The acceptance of one who knew rejection; who knew and, was obedient to it (accepting of it); letting it happen and forgiving in the meantime? Awesome, Jesus…eh.

    Blind spots, well spotted. I think the intention of the DDO is good when it comes to these!

    Thankful for your care and the way you face the world with open arms and steady hope, a learning grace.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      The challenge was actually really good. It forced me to deal with some deep shame triggers. I also realized my caption for the photo was less than gracious- truthful, yes, but not gracious. I am still considering how to find the third way in calling out the idolatry of christian nationalism.

      I’m working on embracing constructive criticism, which I think is different from rejection. But I think you are onto something regarding the “acceptance of rejection.” Sadly, in our current climate, that acceptance of rejection swings both ways, as each side sees themselves to be on the side of Jesus, and the rejection from the “other” only proves and validates their theological and political position.

      I came to Jesus knowing him as a man of sorrow, one who understood death, who is compassionate, empathetic. It wasn’t until later in my walk that I experienced him as one who was rejected. But I do remember that first encounter with Jesus- He looked a whole lot like Mrs. Pugh, a widow whose tears flowed freely at the death of her husband but who found comfort in the arms of Jesus. That was the Jesus I wanted to know and follow.

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