I saw this on a blog I read occasionally called Mental Floss. I can certainly imagine Charlie Chaplin doing this, and it would definitely put the qualification of the judges in question. Snopes claims the story to be true, adding he didn’t even make the finals. What intrigues me about this is the huge gap there can exist between who we really are and people’s image of you.

What is known or not about you can be broken down pretty simply (math or engineering types, you can go ahead and draw a diagram with “you” on the x axis and “others” on the y).

Known by you and others – this is fairly common knowledge which we typically try to control.

Known by you and not others – a necessary category, but just how big is this closet?

Known by others and not you – these are your blind spots. A good friend can help you here.

Not known by you or others – yes, the logical last category known only to God.

When you think about who you are, your identity, there are probably things you like and others you dislike. Anyone who’s seen me or my picture knows my gray hair are showing up in force. It’s who I am, like it or not. I’m from Montana, but live in France, and even though I get pretty funny looks when I wear an old seed cap, it’s who I am and I don’t mind if others know it. This is all in the first category, which we generally try to control.

There are plenty of things about ourselves we don’t really want others to know. I have to wear a tooth guard at night so I don’t grind my teeth down further. Whoops, now that slid into the first category. I’ll stop there. But who are we really kidding. Guys, how would you feel if all your friends knew as much about you as google does? Does something we’re think we’re hiding not affect who we are? Are there things in this category that need to change? Would sharing your struggles with someone you trust help you?

We all have blind spots too, things others see but the forest is so thick we have trouble recognizing them. Once I was told that when I speak in French I often end my sentences with “eh?” I had no idea. Then I started catching myself doing it and found it pretty annoying. I’m really thankful my friends thought to tell me! Being open and correctable is key here, especially if the issue is serious.

Over a decade ago I was working on my first missionary team. May and I noted something in our team leaders that we felt wasn’t quite right. As delicately as possible I brought it to the team leader’s attention. He listened and heard what was said, didn’t get defensive, recognized our point, and even thanked us for bringing it to their attention. He earned a ton of respect that day, and as time has gone on I think that respect continues to be well earned. I still appreciate his willingness to listen and understand. Today he’s technically my boss, and I hope will always be my friend.

Four years ago during a conference a colleague of mine called me aside to talk with me. He wanted to express how something I had done had hurt him in a profound way. I listened, did my best to understand, recognized his points, shared my view of the situation, and ultimately asked his forgiveness. (sorry, but forgiveness is another blog). It helped me grow, and it was important for our relationship.

If someone offers you love motivated correction, remember this – it takes great courage. That person is showing that they value your relationship enough to risk the uncomfortable. That person, if their motivations are pure, is a hero. Before you get defensive, before you counter, as your guts react to the discomfort, bring this to mind:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

Lastly, our diagram has this category - unknown to us or others. It’s a logical necessary, but what’s the use? Well, we’re talking about who we are and who we want to be. Might there be things there you would want to change? Considering that nothing within any of these categories is unknown to God, it’s not completely inaccessible.

In psalm 139 David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Known as a man after God’s heart, he clearly is asking God to dig into this last category and help him be a better person. This is where God really comes in. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we see lasting positive change. As God works on us, pushing issues to the foreground (known territory), trust that He knows what’s best, exhale by confessing back to Him, then inhale by asking to be filled with His Spirit. Our true identity is found in Him, not the judges of a look-alike contest!