One Sunday after church, a dear brother stopped me and said, “Pastor Ray, there is a piece of tape on the side of your face. I am not sure if it is a Band-Aid.”
At that, I reached my hand up to the right side of my face and removed a sliver of cellophane tape that I often use to stabilize the microphone headset I wear during worship. That shiny little fleck of tape surprised me, because already that morning I had greeted scores of people, and no–one told me that I had tape on my face. I looked at the man and said, “I feel so loved that you would point this out to me. I consider you a real friend.”
There is little that’s more frustrating and scary in life than being blind to what others see and know about you, and no-one says anything. In fact, this kind of behavior is the antithesis of Christian community. In the context of community, it gets worse. Hardly anything is more debilitating and enervating to a community than people knowing things about you to which you are in the dark, and instead of speaking to you, they speak to others about you.
For a woman, it could be as simple as going through the day with red lipstick on your teeth, and no-one tells you. For a man, your zipper is down, or there is leftover shaving cream on the side of your face, or there is spaghetti sauce on your chin. In the course of the day, you’ve had several conversations with co-workers and “friends,” and nobody bothered to point your wardrobe malfunctions and personal peccadillos out to you.
Sometimes the stakes are higher, and the flaws run deeper. Say you have a bad habit of talking over people. Or you repeatedly show a facial expression that some assume is disgust. These tics and habits alienate you from others, may even cost you the chance for a promotion or continued employment.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to see ourselves in 360 degrees, where everything that people around us see, hear, and perceive about us we also can see? The reality is, we can’t. There are some things that I know about myself, but people see and know things about me that I simply can’t see.
The only way to solve this self-blindness is through feedback. Of course, this is easier said than done. Feedback informs you of your relationship with the world and the world’s relationship with you — it shows you the way that you’re impacting other people, for better or worse. Every day, it’s all around you — it’s there; the question is whether you’re paying attention to it or if anyone is telling you.
Giving and receiving helpful feedback is often tricky. When we give feedback to a person, we should be motivated by love and concern to see that person improve and grow. And when we receive feedback, we must be grateful that someone would take the time to speak the “truth” to us. Unfortunately, folks are either timid about giving feedback for fear of hurting a person’s feelings, or our emotions are triggered by defensiveness, anger, or self-loathing when someone points out our flaws and weaknesses. Either way, failure to give timely feedback, and failure to humbly receive what others tell us about ourselves, is a sign of dysfunction.
God’s word has many examples of giving and receiving feedback (Exodus 18:17-26, 2 Samuel 12:7-14). One of my favorites is the story about the bright, articulate, accomplished man who humbled himself and accepted feedback from two people who were simple working-class followers of Jesus. The man listened to the couple’s feedback and encouragement, and he was the better for it. Read Acts 18:24-28 for the rest of the story.
How about how about you? When was the last time you received feedback from others? How did you respond? When was the last time you gave feedback to another person? How did that turn out?
Would love to hear your thoughts below.