The other day someone on Twitter put out this question, “What do you think are the most common self-inflicted wounds?” They were targeting leaders but I think it’s a great question for all of us to ponder.
Here were some of the replies:
– surrounding yourself with people who are afraid to disagree with you
– lack of self-care
– lack of humility
– being a people pleaser
– faulty expectations
– the mouth
– lack of self-control
– trying to be “the magic”
– lack of responsibility
– thinking too highly of themselves
– rejection of Jesus
– emotional hurts
– lack of boundaries
– viewing themselves as irreplaceable
– superhero mentality
– not accepting situations
– not knowing when to shut up
– lousy people skills
All of these are valid answers. Some, we would definitely identify as issues we’ve had ourselves. But, almost everyone seemed to be thinking that obvious, surface behaviors are the cause of our self-inflicted wounds.
We think it’s deeper than that.
We believe the most significant culprits of self-sabotage and people problems of every kind are found in three subconscious, internal drivers:
- Maybe we do have “lousy people skills” and they’re affecting our ability to connect with people but the real problem is we haven’t been able to recognize how shame is driving our missteps.
- A “superhero mentality” can come from the unrecognized guilt that drives us to keep doing more and more amazing things in an effort to feel okay about ourselves. (Shame can also drive this.)
- “Lack of self-control” could be a sign of an underlying fear that we won’t ever have enough so we keep buying more stuff or hoarding certain things or needing more distracting experiences to cover our fear.
Take any failure, personal, relational or professional and you can pretty much count on shame, fear or guilt being at the bottom of it.
These same three drivers seem to be present in the garden story of Genesis and in the wilderness temptation of Jesus. Now, the scripture, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man” (1 Cor 10:13) takes on an even fuller meaning.
So, what’s going on?
- Shame comes from the internal belief that (on some level) we are not enough.
- Fear comes from the internal belief that we don’t have enough.
- Guilt comes from the internal belief that we haven’t done enough.
While we have all three operating in us, it’s important to note that most of the time we have one dominant driver (and maybe a lesser second) we seem most attached to.
Your job is to get to the bottom of which one or two might be steering you the wrong way.
When was the last time you had a personal, relational, or professional crash, crisis or misunderstanding of some kind? Maybe you have a situation going on right now that has you stuck or mystified.
When you find yourself overreacting, angry, anxious or lonely (or feeling anything that takes you out of love, joy, and peace) ask yourself questions like this:
- Are you overreacting because something someone said triggered shame in you?
- Is your anger triggered by some hidden notion of guilt because certain people, maybe even you, haven’t done enough to see more success in an area?
- Are you feeling anxious (fearful) because you don’t have enough information or money right now to feel secure?
- Are you feeling lonely because at your core you don’t feel worthy to be out with people?
If you can begin to recognize (and override) which of the subtle patterns of shame, fear or guilt are most often operating in you, you can significantly reduce casualties from future self- inflicted wounds and increase your sense of well being.
But, sometimes, we need help figuring out what’s driving us. ( We did!) That’s why we’re helping hundreds of individuals and teams get to the real root of important issues in their lives, marriages, ministries, and businesses.
*** Next week we’ll unpack the antidote for each of these three patterns, so that you can live in greater freedom than ever before, and not regularly shoot yourself in the foot, or anywhere else.