Some of us grew up with a lot of criticism. We heard such statements as: 'You are wrong.' 'That's stupid.' No matter what we said, we were shot down. As a result, we tried to stay invisible and keep our opinions to ourselves. Even today as adults, we don't trust ourselves and are very sensitive to anything that might have the appearance of criticism. We can even hear something as criticism when it is not. We keep our thoughts to ourselves as a defense mechanism, so people often miss our hidden gifts and personality.
One year, Karen and I were at a retreat with the wonderful pastor and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale. He is known for his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. Catherine, his wife, is known for the publication, Guideposts.
Dr. Peale shared his life story and how he had to deal with insecurity. While in Seminary, he was called into the President's office. His insecurity was activated. He thought that the reason the President was calling him into his office was to tell him that he shouldn't be a pastor. Upon entering the President's office, he was greeted by a large and powerful man with a humble and loving spirit.
'People who don't claim their gifts are like
Superman not realizing his powers,
so they live their whole lives as Clark Kent.'
The President said, 'Norman, I have been watching you and I have noticed that you have a lot of gifts but you don't allow yourself to use them because you do not believe in yourself. I want you to know that I believe in you and want you to believe in yourself. Believe in yourself and share you wonderful gifts.'
These two illustrations remind me of a statement the Reverend Craig Avents, Jr., shared in a sermon. He was talking about people who do not believe in themselves. He said, 'People who don't claim their gifts are like Superman not realizing his powers, so they live their whole lives as Clark Kent.'
The question has been asked many times, 'How can people miss not seeing Superman in Clark Kent? His only disguise is his glasses!' It is not the glasses that cause people, even Lois Lane, to miss seeing Superman in Clark Kent. His disguise is how he relates to others.
Perhaps we relate to others, even the ones closest to us, in such a way that they miss who we are and fail to see our many gifts.
Are we the ones who relate to us as Clark Kent by weighing everything we say in case we say the wrong thing and people will criticize us?
By trying to stay invisible and using abstract language such as 'fine' so that we never take a stand? By keeping others at arm's length?
In the next article we will explore ways to let the Superman or Superwoman in all of us emerge.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700