What are blindspots?
If you’re a driver then you’ll know exactly what I mean by a ‘blind spot’.
If not, then let me explain…
There’s a hidden view on each side of the car and it’s important to look back over your shoulder when changing lanes, to ensure there’s no vehicle sitting right in the place that you just can’t see, even if you look in all the mirrors you have in your car.
You must take your eyes off the road for a split second, have a swift look backwards, and then either pull out or wait a little longer if you find something lurking there.
But, why do I tell you all this?
We all have blind spots in life, too, and they’re even harder to overcome than our driving ones!
We all have weaknesses that are difficult to spot… though, strangely enough, we usually have no difficulty in spotting other people’s.
In fact it’s quite easy to go through life pointing out everything that everyone else should be doing better (and we may well be right in every observation we make) and yet remain completely oblivious to the faults in ourselves (that are blatantly obvious to everyone else).
That’s why they’re called blind spots: because WE are blind to them even though no-one else is.
How do they exist?
Well, as a car is driven towards its destination, it’s hard for the one at the steering wheel to see the outside of the car. In fact, it’s impossible.
Even with mirrors, you don’t see everything.
And yet someone outside that car will have a very good view of the scratch running down the side, or of the other car about to hit yours, or of the obstacle in your path that could cause you a problem if you don’t change direction.
Do we listen to that person outside our car who shouts to us with a warning about what we can’t see? Of course we do.
They can see something we can’t so why wouldn’t we listen?
Similarly, as we chart our course in life along whatever path God has placed us on, we too are often unaware of what others can see.
We like the idea that everything is within our control and that surely we must know ourself better than anyone else possibly could.
We say ‘surely someone who isn’t living my life and who is only watching what I’m doing from afar couldn’t possibly see something I need to be aware of that I haven’t noticed already!’
But being on the outside of a car, or indeed someone’s life, is often the best place to see things from a fresh and new perspective.
After all, it’s the point of view we ourselves never have the luxury of having.
We are limited to seeing things solely from our own viewpoint; from the inside of our lives and the inside of our experience.
And what we so often need is the perspective of those on the outside who know us, see us, and want the best for us.
It’s, sadly, this perspective we are often just not open to.
‘Why should I listen to that criticism when that’s not what I see?’, ‘They’re just being too negative,’ and ‘What do they know anyway?’ are common responses to people pointing out what we can’t see in our blindspots.
The reality, however, is this: why WOULDN’T they be able to see what they can see?
We’re talking about blindspots, here. By definition, they are things you can’t see but everyone else can.
The hard truth
If we have people trying to tell us about the flaw that needs touching up, about the problem that’s about to smack into us, or about the issue that’s going to trip us up soon enough if we don’t change something sharpish, then it’s really in our best interests to listen.
It’s not easy to do that though, is it?
We’d much rather dismiss each criticism as incorrect because it’s the opinion of a single person.
We say to ourselves they must be incorrect in what they think they see or, even worse, lying about it to hurt us or make us feel bad.
In other words, the feedback is a mistake or a fake, and it’s better to ignore it or carry on as we were… or so we think.
But what happens when more than one person tells us the same thing?
And this happens on different occasions?
In different contexts?
Even from people who don’t even know each other, who couldn’t have coordinated what they’re saying?
Maybe they’re all just misinterpreting a particular trait you have in the same way…. that’s easily done, isn’t it?
If people are jealous of you they might think you’re showing off.
If they’re intimidated by your strong personality, they might claim you’re pushy, bossy, or overbearing.
If they’re too weak to speak their mind when they need to, that would explain why they say you’re opinionated, rude, and outspoken.
This of course could all be true.
They may well find their own insecurities getting the better of them. But, if that’s the case, could we help by changing how we behave around those who need a bit of sensitivity and tact?
Of course it’s more likely that, if we find ourselves presented with a raft of similar criticisms, then these criticisms probably are (dare I say it) correct.
We can cling to the impression we have of ourselves even when it’s challenged by the same criticism over and over again.
Or we might just want to consider that all those people could possibly have a point.
If the same complaint comes up again and again then I’d suggest you’ve found a blindspot.
Be grateful for it, as not many people get to see something they were previously blind to.
You’ve been given the gift of sight so use it wisely and use it well!
It’s better to have light thrown onto something you didn’t even know was there, than to keep it in darkness where you might trip over it one day and still not be able to see what tripped you up…
That way, you won’t keep tripping over it time after time always attributing it to something else on the outside, rather than the inside, of your life.
The best way
Better than carrying on and pretending there are no blindspots, better than ignoring the blindspots pointed out to us by others, and even better than dealing with blindspots as and when they are brought up by other people when they cause problems, I’d like to challenge you to do something radical.
It’s not easy, it’s not pleasant, and it’s certainly not expected. Especially if you’re in any kind of position of leadership.
But, it’s powerful.
More than that, it makes things better: better for you, better for those under you, and better for those you can influence through what you do.
So what is this amazing, wonderful, astounding act I’m challenging you with?
Don’t wait for someone to point out your blindspot.
Rather than wait until you have to deal with something, deal with it now.
It’s a principle that applies to most areas of life, in fact, and it empowers you to tackle an issue when you’re ready to do it rather than when you’re forced to do it in a manner that might not be as comfortable.
How to go about it
Find a group of people you know.
They might be friends, family members, work colleagues, or those under your leadership. Maybe a mixture of them all.
Ask them individually what your blindspots are.
Make sure they know you’re not going to argue with them straight away and that you won’t treat them any differently, or trust them any less, whatever they say.
Make sure they are aware you really want them to be honest and open. That they’re not here to just compliment you.
If they fall into any of the groups I mentioned above, you really do need to trust them.
If you can’t, that’s a whole separate issue.
Listen to your trusted group, as you’ll probably hear similar things from all those you ask.
Do the work:
After weighing up what you heard, act on those things that came up a lot, and maybe even some that only a few have spotted in you, too.
If you do all this, I’m confident it will achieve the following things (and who wouldn’t want these to be the case?):
1) You will be respected for taking the initiative to deal with things before you have to.
2) You will be respected for allowing your weaknesses to be exposed.
3) You will make others feel respected for valuing their insights and opinions.
4) You will be honoured for receiving feedback and even more so for acting on it.
5.) You will now be able to see into your blindspots by dragging them into your field of vision, and so you’ll be able to change things, and that will have a huge impact on more than you can imagine.
6.) You will free others up by dealing with the things in YOU that were holding THEM back.
7.) Things will change for the better sooner than if you’d been waiting for these issues to be raised, naturally.
After all, little respect is given to those who are made to change compared to those who take the initiative to change through their own choice because they care about those around them.
What it costs
It’s worth saying that, just as with driving, this process may require you to take your eyes off the immediate destination you’re striving towards for a time.
It might mean you have to slow down for a bit to deal with what you find.
It may even feel like a backwards move to take the time that’s needed to check your blindspots.
But, it’s worth it.
Facing your blindspots is a worthwhile act that will allow you to see, through others’ perspectives, what you cannot see through your own.
When driving, some blindspots can be seen just by looking over your shoulder.
In life, self-reflection can reveal a fair amount about ourselves.
But to see everything there is to be seen, while driving or in life, we need to ask those on the outside to tell us what they can spot.
If you’re strong enough, and brave enough, to ask others about your blindspots AND act on what you receive, it’ll draw you closer to those around you.
It will remove obstacles between you.
It will allow you to better serve them as a friend, family member, work colleague, or even as a leader or boss!
A second opinion
To finish with, if you’re still not convinced about the idea that we all have blindspots, and that we do need to take the initiative in dealing with them, did you know that Jesus himself had something to say about them?
He didn’t call them blindspots, though. Instead He used a slightly different analogy:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7 v 3 – 5
Jesus knew that blindspots could be huge and yet we could still be blind to them, even as we try to point out others’ blindspots.
Why not take advantage of the amazing resource you have at your disposal, other people, and use them to help you peer into that blindspot? To help you identify the plank in your own eye.
Just as it’s impossible to see outside the car you’re inside of, or to see into the very eye that you’re looking out of, on your own, you need to use other people to provide the perspective you don’t have and achieve the impossible.
To see into your blindspots and deal with what you see!
So then, are you up to the challenge?
Will you seek to identify blindspots, and deal with them, even when no-one is speaking up about them right now?
I hope you’ll accept this challenge as it’s not easy but, from my own personal experience, it works and it works WELL! You’ll reap the benefits I’ve mentioned above, if you sow in the time and effort to make it happen.
Putting self second and others first in this way, by valuing them enough to deal with difficult things and trusting their word over your own impressions of yourself, will result in things we never thought possible.
Who knows just how much it could change in your life?