Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Power and the Pain: the paradox of self-evaluation

Of late I have been jotting down ideas for things I would like to accomplish next year in preparation for New Years when I know I will be hard pressed to remember everything that I want to improve or do. This has set me to consider the remarkable change that has taken place in me since I was a child in regards to goal setting. I will probably do a more in-depth post on resolutions and goals at the new year, but this preliminary thought process has given me pause to consider a paradox that comes out of an aspect of goal setting and that is self evaluation. The paradox is this, the power that comes from knowing and understanding yourself immense, but the pain that comes with a truly honest evaluation of your weaknesses and shortcomings can be just as intense. So intense in fact that even the thought of it keeps many people walking on slivers for years.

What do I mean when I say walking on slivers? I remember when I was a boy I would spend a good deal of time running about without my shoes on and at times tiny slivers of wood would puncture my foot. Now the most sensible thing to do once you realize you have a sliver is to get it removed right away. But the pain of a having a sliver removed can be quite intense, momentarily much more intense than the constant throbbing that results from leaving it in and walking on it. So I would often keep my sliver hidden from my mother for days at a time to avoid having it removed. Many people take this approach to their own weaknesses or problems, the pain of acknowledging and facing up to their existence can be so bad that they would rather endure the constant throbbing of living with them everyday, especially if like my sliver dealing with them will involve another person.

I lived this way for years, and at times I am still apt to do it. But it is not a truly livable strategy, splinters if left in too long can become buried in the skin and healed over, so that it almost looks as thought there is no problem there at all, but in fact the easy means of dealing with the problem, the little bit hanging out, is the only thing that has been lost. The wound will actually now have to be reopened to deal with the problem and the spot may become infected leading to bigger issues. I now have a system in place to help me do better with this problem. One of the pieces is yearly goals with weekly evaluation of them. Another piece to help discover splinters is a monthly introspection, where I take stock of myself through several processes that I find helpful and discover areas where improvement could be made or splinters could be removed. Let me assure you that the process is painful indeed, but the joy of walking without a dull throb is well worth the moment of fire as a splinter is tugged loose from its places.

I am reminded of Eustace in C.S. Lewis's masterpiece the Voyage of the Dawn Treader which Meagan and I have been reading. He was a boy who never acknowledged his faults or weaknesses until he was turned on the outside to what he was on the inside, a dragon. This period is a time of self discovery and evaluation for Eustace, a very painful but in the end rewarding experience. There is one particularly applicable quote where it says "He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed" certainly not a comfortable question to be asking oneself, but it does get better and the great lesson of the story is that Eustace begins to change, but cannot complete his change with out the help of the Lion, Aslan, who is Christ. And that is a great message for all of us, when it is too painful for us to do the removing ourselves, Christ will do it for us.

So don't be afraid, be better.

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