Earlier this summer I had a delightful conversation with my 15 -year-old daughter. It was delightful for a couple of reasons. Since being in tween and teen-dom the last few years, I have learned that when this one talks and shares her deep thoughts or insights about anything she is thinking or feeling, I had better stop and drop everything to listen because I don’t know when that mood will hit her again. Our children can be a mirror reflection of us. That reflection can make us beam with pride or make us say, “ouch.” Though this daughter is her dad’s twin in physical appearance, she serves as my personality reflection often. Like when she was four, we were at the mall and I was engaged with another mother with twin daughters about her age. One of the girls said to her mother, “She won’t play with me!” And, my daughter said just as soberly with her hands stuck in her pocket, “That is because you had your fingers in our mouth, and your nose is running.” Ouch! Did she just say that out loud? Did I, a quasi-germ-o-phobe, do that? Probably. But, this recent conversation had me beaming with pride.
My daughter shared with me the things that she wanted to work on about herself and how she planned to do it. I was really impressed with what she had identified. I asked her how she come up with her list. She said, “Well, some things you and Daddy have talked to me about. And, others, I have listened to my friends or made observations about how other people interact with me.” Wow! I was impressed. I know adults three or four times her age who rarely engage in introspection and reflection. From this conversation, we can learned three things:
1. Self-introspection and reflection can be painful, but is always needed
It is no fun to admit our flaws or that we come up short. However, in order to grow and mature we must. We will always be stuck in the same space, when we don’t ask how our thoughts, words and actions contribute to an interpersonal exchange. We will never grow if we are constantly blaming others for our failures. We never mature if we never obtain a balanced perspective about ourselves—that includes both our strengths and weaknesses. Without honest assessment of ourselves we have resigned our selves to a life of staying stuck.
2. We can learn about who we are from others
We certainly can listen to others we know have our best interests at heart. Anyone who wants to see us do and be our best can be trusted—even when they don’t always say it in the best way we can receive it. On several occasions my daughter has told me that I have hurt her feelings by how I said something. I try to mindful of that and apologize when I need to do so. However, what about the people who don’t have our best interest? As tempting as it is to disregard what they say, we can learn from them, too. Sometimes our “enemies” are the most honest. That is not to say we have to believe everything they have to say about us. But, we can listen with a filter, chew the meat and spit out the bone.
3. All Christians should practice self-introspection
Self-introspection is a spiritual discipline. It is simply the act of examining our thoughts, motives and behaviors on a regular basis. Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to examine ourselves:
Psalm 139: 23-24 “Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Job 13:23 “How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin.”
1 Corinthians 11:28 “Everyone ought to examine themselves before the eat of the bread and drink from the cup.”
These are but a few scriptures to encourage us to examine ourselves. The fact that so many exist speak to the fact that God already knew we would come up short. He already knew we would sin. He already knew we are flawed. Of course, the gospel of Jesus gives us hope that we can be and do better. However, we can only be our best self when we examine and acknowledge our short comings.
This small conversation with my daughter produced big lessons. I loved the fact that she brought up the conversation on her own. I loved that fact that she is doing her own introspection. That alone produces a greater chance of producing change versus her dad or I constantly saying something. Sometimes our children are a mirror-reflection of us. And, sometimes that reflection surpasses us. This is one of those times I am reflecting in awe in her shadow.