I still say that on a good day, I’m 5’11”. I’m not. Not even on my best days am I 5’11”. My driver’s license says 5’10” and even that might be fudging it a little. At some point, early in my childhood, I became convinced that being 6’ was ideal for a man. Ever since then I have done everything I could (except hang upside down each day) to get myself to 6’. Even if that has meant stretching the truth.
It can be tempting to shape or massage narratives in a way that casts us in a more favorable light. Or as the book of Proverbs says it, “All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes but the Lord weighs the spirit.” (Proverbs 16:2, 21:2). How can we see beyond our self- justification? How can we be free of self-deception? How can be honest with ourselves?
Being honest with yourself is not the same as beating yourself up. Being honest with yourself isn’t about guilt or shame, it’s about freedom. There is great wisdom in Christ’s proclamation that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Truth, like love, is in the liberation business. Truth cannot help but free you from that which seeks to diminish or devalue you, because you are beloved by God. Lies oppress. Lies bind us through fear, anxiety, and shame.
Pursuing honesty with yourself begins with embracing truth; truth not as an abstract concept but as a relationship with God. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). The path to being honest with yourself begins with a prayer, “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.” (Psalm 139:23-24). It’s a simple prayer but it’s not easy. Asking God to surface those things we’d rather avoid is difficult work. This is not a prayer you can say once and move on. It is one of those prayers that we need to come back to again and again. This is a challenging, and sanctifying process. It’s sacred work.
If this is a path you’re willing to try I offer three suggestions:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself tough questions about your motivations, emotions, or desires.
2. Have compassion upon yourself. Don’t define yourself by the mistakes you’ve made. Give yourself grace. God does.
3. Remember that the focus is not on identifying every mistake. The goal of the prayer is a renewed heart (Psalm 51). The focus is not the weeds, it’s the garden.