Closer Than They Appear: Lurking Character Flaws

Posted by on Aug 16, 2012 in change, coaching, life, Life Coach | 11 comments

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When I was a kid, I remember traveling down the road in my family’s giant Ford and seeing the words on the side view mirror, “Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear.” I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what it meant.

“Mom, they aren’t closer.” I said, “They are where they are.” In retrospect, I must have had this conversation with my mom about 50 times while traveling. My mom’s patience was immeasurable.

Maybe there is something wrong with my eyesight, but I still don’t really ‘see’ it. I have learned that even though I don’t, I have to allow for the fact that when backing into parallel park, those cars behind me are a lot closer than they appear in the mirror.

Parked cars or telephone poles aren’t the only things in our rear view mirror that are closer than they seem: so are our character defects. Those things about us that we wish weren’t true.

For example, early in my own experience in being coached, my coach said to me, “Matt, you think that you are good with people, but you are not.”

I had always described myself as a ‘people person’ and had what I thought was a warm and gregarious demeanor. What I found out through coaching was the character flaw that I was not people oriented, but talking oriented. I like to talk and make my opinion known. My coach helped me to see the character defect that was actually closer than it appeared. Finding this ‘hole’ in who we are is vital to keep us from crashing into it.

Finding the flaw that is closer than it appears:

1. Ask yourself the following question: “What kinds of problems keep surfacing again and again?” Be more honest about the answer to this question than any other question you’ve ever been asked. What trends do you see? Lots of conflict? Gossip? Lies?

2. What are the consequences of this behavior?

3. What lengths are you willing to go to in order to turn that character defect into a strength? I know that enlisting a coach was vital to me. I’d love to offer you a free strategy session to discuss how coaching could positively impact your life.

Know that with intentional effort, self exploration, and a openness to change, these “objects that are closer than they appear” can be kept in the rear view for good!


The mission of Matthew Reed Coaching is “To make the world a more effective and God honoring place, through coaching.” I love to help people genuinely experience the life they have always wanted. I’d be thrilled to be able to share with you the power of coaching.”


image: borderlys via CreativeCommon License

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  • Olga Hermans

    Am I sure I want to know my character flaw? LOL They are closer to me than they appear…I know that. Yesterday I was asked to do some things in our church and instead of just being a little bit more reluctant and listen what was asked of me. No, I had to talk and tell them how I thought things should go….oh my, I still have to learn some things…anyway, we were both laughing the moment I detected my attitude…

    • Matthew Reed

      I hate that type of examination that looks for my character flaws too.

  • Carolyn Hughes

    As I read Olga’s comment I thought ‘I don’t want to know my flaws either!’ But as I have been through a process of self examination when I was in rehab, I know that it is being aware, open and honest about my character traits that has helped me develop as a person.
    Love your example of the rear view mirror!

    • Matthew Reed

      @Carolyn_Hughes:disqus you know then how powerful that kind of self-exam is.

  • Jenny Shain

    This is a GREAT post Matthew! Raw & vulnerable. It takes courage to face our weaknesses & sin. Thanks for being honest. You are a better coach for it, I’m sure. I know that your coach helped you be a better person by pointing that out to you. Talking oriented- that is the one thing that holds most people back from being an effective counselor or coach. I’m sure you’ve grown a ton from that one piece of advice from him.
    The 3 questions you posted are SPOT ON!

    • Matthew Reed

      Wow, thanks for the glowing encouragement!
      I was serving as a pastor at the time of the conversation with the coach, and that talk, almost entirely, is what caused me to enter coaching. It is SUCH a powerful thing.

  • Penny

    UGHH….words and thoughts that bring conviction, thank you something I will be pondering tonight. :-)

  • Ron Cross

    Very thought provoking post Matt!I love the questions at the end too. Great fuel for my daily episodes of introspection.

  • Sue Graber

    Great post: Love what you suggest about asking the question: what problems keep surfacing? Never really thought about how that might be pointing towards a “flaw” …. Thanks for sharing a thought provoking post!

  • Jessica J Stone

    What a great analogy about our character defects! I feel like I am constantly working on making myself better, learning about others, and how to best communicate. Actually, I would say now that I’m a student of communication! It’s something I know can be a drawback to us introverts, and am really trying to learn how to step outside my comfort zone. Asking God to help me, He’s quick to point out flaws, or allows situations to build my character… when I rely on Him and ask Him to work on me through it. GREAT article!

  • Pat Moon

    What a revealing post… it is difficult to really look closer when we want to see our own flaws. I had always considered a person who can talk to anyone and that loves to talk, a people-person. Now I know better… it is causing me to realize there are many other qualities that should be used to consider yourself to be a people-person. Thanks for sharing your wisdom about things being closer than they appear.

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