All of us have unique vulnerabilities – places or times or situations where a shadow side can show up if we are not aware, careful and have a plan to compensate for them. Vulnerabilities are not something to be ashamed of – we are human – but to be aware of and to manage so that the vulnerability does not turn into something worse.

I know that I am vulnerable when I am overly tired. So does my family who can be the brunt of my cranky attitude. I also know that I am prone to periods of depression if I do not get enough rest. At the same time I tend to say “yes” to too many things and it takes people around me to help me moderate my schedule and think realistically about what my body can take especially after two severe bouts in the ICU that I am still recovering from.

The evil one is described as a prowling lion waiting to devour. Lions love the tall grass where they can hide, watching for just the right moment to attack. They watch for the laggard of the herd, the vulnerable animal and then at the right moment they launch an often fatal blow. That is an accurate description of the evil one who loves to discourage, hurt or take down God’s people. It is also why we must be even more aware in our times of vulnerability than we are in our times of strength. Satan is most likely to attack when we are weak, not strong.

This again takes us back to the importance of self knowledge and acute awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. Satan wants us to live unaware and unexamined lives while the Father wants us to be acutely aware and wise in how we live. After all, every day, there is a lion on the prowl waiting for a moment when he can launch an attack.

Because I am by nature an introvert (in an extrovert’s job), my tendency would be to be by myself when tired and worn out. But that is when I am personally most vulnerable so I compensate by spending time with family or friends rather than by myself. Knowing my vulnerable moments I seek to take offensive moves in order to stay healthy.

I don’t need to repeat the list of temptations common to man that assail us in our weak moments. The list is long and apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we are weak. You know what your vulnerabilities are and I know what mine are. The real question is whether we are intentional in our awareness and have a plan to offset those temptations so that vulnerabilities do not become casualties. All of us are vulnerable, none of us need be casualties to those vulnerabilities.

There is no escaping our shadow side but there are ways to minimize its damage in our lives and in the lives of others. I believe that there are six major antidotes to our shadow sides: none of them are enough in themselves but practice together they are powerful tools toward deep influence. They really involve choices so I am going to posit them as choices we make – and each of us makes them regularly.

Living in isolation or living in relationship

We live in a highly individualistic culture at least in the west. It is easy for us to live in isolation rather than in relationship. Yet it is in authentic relationships with others that life rubs on life, where iron sharpens iron, where we are challenged to be our best and to become all that God intended us to be. Mary Ann and I have made the cultivation of key relationships (we call them friends for life) a high priority in our lives because it is so critical to a “healthy” us.

I am convinced that the healthier our relationships, the healthier we are. The more isolated we live, the greater the opportunity for the shadow side to show itself – and ultimately to hurt our influence.

Living with autonomy or accountability

This follows from the first choice. Choosing to live in authentic relationship is a choice to live with accountability rather than autonomy because with relationship comes healthy accountability. If I were to choose to do something stupid with my life, I know that there are a good number of friends who would show up at my door and call me to reason.

There are also those whom I invite to speak into my life if they sense the shadow side is showing up. They are people I trust, whose feedback I value and who I know have my best interests in mind. Choosing to live with accountability is a major hedge against our shadow sides becoming liabilities. Those who live without accountability and whose relationships are only with those who affirm them rather than who can be honest with them almost always end up on the shoals!

Living with self knowledge rather than an unexamined life

There are things I don’t like about me! But knowing those things is far better than ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist. The better I know me, the better the chance I have that I can cooperate with God so that I become the me I want to be and the me He made me to be. That means knowing how God wired me, where my shadow side is, what my unique vulnerabilities are and where and how I can hurt others because of my makeup.

People of deep influence are always people who are deeply self aware, appropriately introspective so that they understand their motivations, tendencies, areas where they are vulnerable to temptation and how they deal with those vulnerabilities. Their self knowledge includes an understanding of God’s amazing grace in their lives and they are not overwhelmed by their sin but by God’s grace. They are not seeking to prove themselves to God but to simply live in His presence, forgiveness and grace on a daily basis.

Living with humility rather than pride

If we are living with self knowledge it is very hard to be prideful. We know that we are justified by Christ (made clean and whole) and that he is sanctifying us as we walk with him (becoming more and more like him) but we also know that we live with brokenness and sin and shadow sides that we wish were not there. Humility is recognizing that life is about Him, not us and that everything we are is because of Him and His work in our lives.

Pride is a rejection of God’s place in our lives and an elevation of us! A rather presumptuous attitude! Pride does not want to know the truth about ourselves and actually promotes an alternate truth about who I really am. Humility has a nothing to prove/nothing to lose attitude that is not afraid of who the true me is, does not need to wear a façade to pretend there is an alternate me and realizes that I am completely indebted to God for all that I am and have.

Living intentionally or accidently

We are most vulnerable to shadow sides when living without a plan, without the discipline of knowing what our priorities are and living them out in a purposeful fashion. Careless living leads to careless lives and careless lives allow shadow sides to show up without our even being aware of it.

I have never met an individual of deep influence who lived carelessly. The very framework that helps them prevent the impact of their shadow side from becoming a liability is one of careful thought and intentional practice. Managing our shadow side in itself requires a plan that comes out of deep self knowledge.

Living with intimacy or distance with Christ

Our connection to Christ, when we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to us and to peel back layers of our own lives to reveal sin, disobedience, elements of the lower nature and areas where He wants to work is a critical element in managing our shadow side. Certainly the closer we stay to Christ, the more receptive we are to His nudging in our lives. The further we are from Him the more of us we are relying on for our understanding and wisdom – a dangerous place to be.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews put it, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:2-13). To the extent that we allow the Scriptures to be a mirror against which we see our lives and the Holy Spirit to speak to us about our lives we will become sensitized to our shadow side and allow God to bring His character even to those difficult areas.
  • Apr 05, 2010
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