My first job out of Ryerson University was working in the marketing department of a heavy equipment manufacturing company on the shores of Lake Huron. I was the copywriter and one-man-TV-production team making an incredible $11,000 per year. It was 1978 and I was twenty-two.
I had the habit of speaking my twenty-two year old mind to senior executives without realizing the impact i was having on them. In a marketing meeting, I told the 50 year old VP of Sales and Marketing that he didn’t know what he was talking about. (And I was right, of course.) My boss, Bill Metcalfe said to me, “Bill, you have one of the best analytic minds I’ve ever come across, except when it comes to yourself.” I have long had the problem of not recognizing the man in the mirror.
Late this spring, Imbi and I were in the UK for a few days before heading off to teach in Nairobi. We went into London to visit a friend, arriving at Victoria Station by train to begin our Tube journey. As is my wont, I had need of a restroom (this must be the theme of the week) and after paying some form of UK currency, made use of the facilities. Approaching the counter to wash my hands, I looked in the mirror…but I wasn’t there. It freaked me out – I was looking in the mirror but all I saw were the doors of the stalls behind me. Was it jet lag? Had I finally lost my mind? What was going on? It took my brain much too long to realize that there was no mirror. The bathroom was constructed as a perfect mirror image of itself and I was looking across at the other side of the room. But there was a metaphor here…at least for me.
I have a hard time seeing myself in a mirror. So it’s probably a little odd that my favourite Michael Jackson song (yes, I like some of his music and I’m sorry he’s such a nutjob) is the Glen Ballard/Seidah Garrett/Michael Jackson composed, Man in the Mirror. (We just bought Number Ones on iTunes and it’s playing from the Bose SoundDock.)
I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
But what if, like me, you have a hard time seeing yourself in the mirror.
I’m convinced there are a lot of people who have a similar problem. People who desperately need others to help them recognize themselves. (At it’s extreme it becomes Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) I think it is particularly prevalent in those attracted to leadership roles in the church. And it’s one of the main reasons we all need to be in accountability relationships.
As hard as it is for me to admit, my wife is my primary helper in this regard. She knows me, loves me, (gets regularly ticked with me) and wants the very best for me. She sees how I regularly shoot myself in the foot and is helping me to do that a little less. (This part of my education has been ongoing since 1983. I am a slow learner.) My buddy George in Pittsburgh makes a habit of calling me to account on a regular basis. Dan, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times this week, has begun to do the same. They and other friends I trust, recognize my blind spots and are doing their best to stop me from walking into things, situations, people that will hurt me, my family and whatever ministry I might have – as well as helping to protect others I might hurt. And in light of Ephesians 5:21, they also expect me to help hold them accountable.
If you have placed yourself above reproach, refuse correction from anyone and see yourself as an authority unto yourself, “I hear directly from God” as I heard one “leader” put it…let me be blunt: you’re screwed. The person you see in the mirror isn’t you – it’s only a reflection of who you think you are. And if you have a relatively well-known platform, you can expect that at some point you will experience what Ted Haggard is experiencing today – and I’m sure he’s wondering how he got here. He thought he looked great in the mirror.