The Freedom of Self-Examination

The Freedom of Self-Examination

Church Leadership

“This year, I’d like to be a less authentic version of myself,” said no leader ever.

We all want to experience the freedom of authenticity, but how do we get there? In Discover Your True North, Bill George writes, “Self-awareness is the foundation of authenticity, and thus it is at the center of your compass.” If we want to start off the year leading others in the way God has designed us to authentically lead, we must be keenly aware of the person in the mirror

Self-awareness begins with the difficult work of self-examination. Yet many of us are unwilling to jump into the deep, dark, and uncomfortably cold waters of self-examination, which can feel like an attack on our identity. What if we discover that sometimes we are weak, wrong, or unpleasant? 

The apostle Paul addresses the topic of self-awareness with the church in Rome: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom 12:3 ESV). This passage comes off the heels of Paul urging the church to be transformed by the renewal of their minds through the gospel message. The gospel tells us that we are weak, wrong, and unpleasant at our core, but God’s grace has rescued us and given us a new identity, which is rooted in Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). So, when we peel back layers of ourselves through honest reflection, we may still find difficult realities of the fleshly nature hanging around, but our sober-mindedness reminds us that God’s love surpasses them all (Rom 8:38–39).

As those loved by God, we are free to ask ourselves the tough questions of self-assessment because God’s love for us will never change.  

Paul goes on to explain another essential aspect of our identity in Romans 12. He tells us that, as individuals, we all have a responsibility to contribute to the whole body of Christ. Typically, our self-perception has a tremendous effect on our behaviors, which means that how we view ourselves has a direct impact on others. If we think too little of ourselves and believe we cannot be a positive influence on our brothers and sisters in Christ, we may rob them of the joy of God expressing himself through our giftings. On the other hand, if we think too highly of ourselves, we may miss God expressing himself through others’ gifts or even suppress others from using their gifts if we are in a position of authority over them.

In essence, we are free to be honest with ourselves because we are ultimately validated by Christ, and our self-perception greatly influences our relationships with others. Now, you may have a firm grasp on your self-awareness. Or perhaps you are just starting your journey to discovering more about how God has designed you. Many of us find ourselves somewhere in between. Regardless, we can all benefit from asking ourselves the hard questions.

Here are a few areas of our lives we can practice asking ourselves self-examination questions as we start off the year. Take time to think through these questions and consider asking a trusted person in your life to weigh in on your answers.

Work Competencies

We need to know what we are good at, where we need to improve, and where others can complement our weaknesses. 

  • Which tasks on my plate are life-giving and which are life-sucking?
  • Do I need to improve or have someone else help me with my tasks?
  • Am I in the right role?


While we are called to be our authentic selves, and not all perceptions are fair, we need to be aware of how others might respond to the way we present ourselves.

  • What does the body language of people I interact with say about how they view me?
  • How would I respond to my own style of communication?
  • How are my decisions coming across to others?

Spiritual Life

A healthy spiritual life of ministry leaders is often assumed by others and overlooked by the leaders themselves.

  • Have I wrestled with the truths I am instructing others to implement in their lives?
  • Am I working off my own ability and insight rather than depending on the Holy Spirit’s?
  • Do the people who know me best see the fruit of the Spirit in my life?

Paul challenged Timothy, a young ministry leader, in 1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV), “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Paul urges Timothy to pay close attention to the way he lived because it painted a poignant picture of the effectiveness of the gospel to those following him.

We must be willing to do the difficult and uncomfortable work of self-examination by asking ourselves questions that get to the truth.

In turn, the truth will set us free to enjoy God, the community he’s given us, and the work he’s called us to do.

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Steven Christopher

Writer, RightNow Media

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