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  Things I'm Not
#7 in a series


It is as important to know what you are not, as it is to know what you are. Somewhere we've gotten this absurd idea that we must be good at everything. It's not so!

In recent years I've become more comfortable with recognizing and acknowledging things that I don't do well. It has been incredibly liberating to understand and accept myself that way, enabling me to do more, not less. I love being a part of things that are bigger than me, but when one jumps into something like that it is easy to bite off more than you can chew. Understanding our strengths, and the areas where we are not strong, helps so much!

In the mid-90's I was part of a capital campaign for a local Christian school. It was a young school without a broad support base. We needed nearly $2,000,000, and the board mandated that they would build debt free. No mortgage! Man-o-man!!

The committee shook down to four guys. None of us had done anything like this before. We were greenhorns. And if you had looked at us you might have said we were an unlikely bunch. But it worked. As we dug into the task, complementary gifts began to emerge. Unspoken, but there. Each played our part. Each was crucial to our success, but each needed the other. It was an awesome thing – a profoundly spiritual experience.

Shortly after that I helped design and implement small groups in our church. The same thing happened. It took a little time, but God brought a team together. If you knew some of the strong personalities among us you might have said it couldn't happen. But it did. There was clear and strong leadership, but ideas and proposals were heard, chopped up, reshaped and applied. There was no sacred turf. One of my sayings for life is, "No idea is a bad idea unless it turns out to not be a good idea and you still insist on doing it." That was a part of our Small Group Ministry Team culture.

None of us has everything. We all lack strength in certain areas. But a lack of strength is not a weakness unless we deny it and refuse to allow others to come alongside us to complement our strengths.

There are the idea people. They are always looking for a better way to do things. Boundaries don't exist. Everything is a possibility. They may look at the big picture more than the detail. And often they don't consider the impact their ideas would have upon people, or existing structures or ways of doing things. Sometimes they drive other people crazy – especially institutionally-bound folk.

There are the individuals who understand people better than concepts. And those who connect all the dots. And of course the ones who want to move carefully and "be sure." They might all be sort of boring to the dreamer but they are crucial to the implementation of new ideas. And typically they are the wisdom and protection that the dreamer needs.

When any of us assumes that the view from our perch is the best, we get into trouble. Our pride, and our sense that "being right" validates us as a person with wisdom, can take us to some strange places. We end up acting foolishly!

Many people handicap themselves because they insist they have all it takes. The creative designer who thinks he/she is also a marketing person will probably not get very far. The gentle-shepherd kind of pastor is likely not an outstanding administrator. The outgoing salesmen who just loooves to be with people and to take on new customers may have a hard time getting his sales reports in. Each strength is accompanied by fairly predictable areas where we don't do so well.

I've never done anything big-time in life, but I've been a part of some significant projects. It is true that several would probably not have happened without me, but it is even truer that they would not have happened well, without those whom God brought to be part of them with me.

It's been liberating for me, to admit what I'm not. I no longer have to try to do everything. I focus on what I'm gifted in and let God bring me into relationship with others for the rest!

So let's loosen up a bit and relax about ourselves. Let's figure out who we are, and who we are not. We need to be honest with ourselves and with others about that. And then let's meet and listen to each other with respect, and together we'll rise to new levels of accomplishment!

I've been touched by how eager God is, to bring me into relationship with others to do things that are bigger than me. And bigger than us together, because something exponential happens as gifts and abilities begin to flow together under His guidance. A few small streams become a mighty river. Except for the sake of pride, why on earth would we want anything else?


Born in 1940, Ken Stoltzfus has worked as a pilot, ordained Christian minister, businessman, missionary to Africa and writer. This is #7 in his series "The View From Up Life’s Path", and is one of many short articles that can be found at

© 2010, Ken Stoltzfus,, P.O. Box 228, Kidron, OH 44636 USA. May be printed for personal use and may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes without further permission if proper acknowledgment is given.

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