NOTE: This post was originally shared on strongchurch.org, which my friend Jack Dodgen helps run. Check out their site when you get a chance!
I’ll admit from the start that this shouldn’t have taken me so long. For many people, this will fall under the category of “obvious” or “well duh” or “I could have told you that YEARS ago.”
Yes, online stranger. Maybe you could have. And if none of this is news to you, then I’ll be happy for you.
That being said, I’m grateful to have learned this lesson later rather than never. And perhaps somebody else needs to hear this lesson as well. In my opinion, it’s too important for any of us to miss.
Many authors have written about the voices or secret rules that we hear inside our heads. In his best-selling book “Start”, Jon Acuff admits that he once believed that his work didn’t count if he was required to learn something new in the process. In his “Apprentice” series, James Bryan Smith frequently identifies false narratives that run contrary to the Gospel, but dominate the landscape of modern-day Christianity (ex: “I earn favor with God by doing good things,” Good and Beautiful God). These voices become more difficult to deal with over time, as they grow embedded into our consciences. We may be so used to hearing these voices that we don’t even realize they are present. Unfortunately, that’s when they can be the most dangerous.
One of my voices had been telling me for years that I didn’t need to ask for help. “The best leaders do it alone.” “Asking for advice is a sign of weakness.” “You have to be smart enough and wise enough to solve your own problems.” “If it was someone else’s idea, it doesn’t count.” You can hear the narcissism and pride bleeding through each of these statements.
I thought I was proving myself through my self-sufficient work, but here’s the truth: isolation is one of Satan’s favorite tools. And if you buy into his lies, you will greatly limit your own growth and effectiveness, at the expense of yourself and others.
While I felt like I was blazing my own path, in reality, I was digging my own grave. People will tell you that you should trust your gut. But your gut should never be the only option you consider.
So earlier this year, based on the advice of a couple friends, I began to evaluate the way I make decisions. I started to realize that I wasn’t helping anybody by thinking and working alone. I came to the conclusion that I needed to transform personal discernment into a group project. This has been a game-changer for my marriage, ministry, and life.
Now, I have two men that I meet with regularly to discuss ministry, marriage, parenthood, and life. These men are several years older than me, and I have been greatly blessed by their wisdom and insight. I’m also slower to make decisions than I was before. I used to be pretty quick to the trigger when presented with a problem or issue. I confused efficiency for effectiveness, which was a critical mistake. Finally, I’m no longer afraid to ask for the perspectives of others, especially people who have been there before. Their expertise has been invaluable.
Maybe this isn’t news to you. Maybe you already have a mentor. Maybe you have trusted friends who help you navigate the winding paths of life. But if you don’t, now is the time to start. This is too important to put off. To borrow language from one of my favorite authors and speakers, “You might say that you’re too busy (to seek advice from others), but the truth is, you are too busy NOT (to seek advice from others).”
I hope that somebody will learn from my mistakes. Own up to the voices in your head, and silence them with the truth. Open up your life to the guidance of people you trust. Sit at the feet of people who have been there, done that. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by secluding yourself. Time spent being led is always time well spent.