A word about building your ‘I am’ statements into true strengths.
by Blue Bradley
Before reading this book you probably had some idea about who you are or what you like. You may have summed up simple statements like loving to walk in nature, or that you’re a night owl, or (like me) need to be caught up in the Christmas rush. As you’ve dug deeper, you may have seen your ability to solve technical problems or relational ones. Maybe you can talk an Eskimo into buying ice or lose yourself in a canvas?
These gifts can lie dormant, or become abusive, depending on how we understand and develop them. When we know who we are—and in a sense can shape our personal world from that knowledge—we can use that understanding to live in
a way that empowers others. But we can also use that understanding to take advantage of others by what I would call a distorted use of identity. So I’d like to touch on the aspects of character, skills, and knowledge again to round out this whole thing.
For instance, my upbringing was pretty violent and I lacked good conflict resolution skills, so fighting was a natural way for me to cope. I had many fights at school, and although my opponents often got the compulsory spanking, I always talked my way out of it. I could talk myself out of anything. I was so good at it my teachers once commented to my parents that if talking my way out of trouble was an actual subject, I’d be an A+ student. As I grew up, my faith in God started to have an effect on these identity strengths. I can win all the arguments if I want to because I think fast and talk faster. The problem is, I might win every battle but in the end, I will lose the relational war. If I really wanted to learn about someone’s perspective, I really needed to shut up and listen. This is what I did:
1. I added skills to my raw identity by listening to great story tellers who created amazing word pictures, theme structures, and showed me the difference between sharing information and compelling people to act. I volunteered to speak at youth events, and whenever I was at birthdays or weddings, I always tried to move from saying nice things about people to talking about the real things that really mattered.
2. Next, I sought out knowledge to understand the motives behind why I wanted to talk and what I really wanted to talk about. I took a communal approach, with peer evaluations giving me feedback which broadened my perspective on when I was using my gift and when I was abusing it. This is where tools like the Johari window are super helpful.
3. Finally, when I was being true to myself, I found that I wanted to communicate in a way that was real, and beneficial to others. This is where character comes into it for me. In order for my character to continue to develop, I need to constantly choose to do good when it’s hard and use what I naturally have to influence others for the good. The tendency to be a scraper and fight constantly needs my character, knowledge, and skills to keep it in check so that even that part of me can come out in a beneficial way.