When I first went to work with John and Henry in 1997, I was excited to be doing work I believed was meaningful and significant.  I loved their mission; helping people heal, thrive and grow. It was rewarding to work for two men that I admired and respected. Additionally, I felt my past work experience and skills made me a good fit for this job.  Whenever I was asked in an interview to list my top 3 strengths, without hesitation, I responded, “I am a good problem solver, I am a good communicator and I have good people skills. Yes, that’s me!” I knew I was in the right place, doing what I was meant to do. After all, I had the right stuff, didn’t I?

Shortly after moving into the role of Executive Director, John took me aside one day and said, “Maureen, we have a problem and I need your help.”  A Problem! I was excited. I eat problems for breakfast. “What is it? How can I help?”  John responded, “well, the problem is how you are interacting with the staff. People are complaining about you!”

 Huh? That’s not what I expected.  I immediately thought, how could that be?  I mean, I have good people skills, right?  But, I said, “okay tell me more…”  So, he did.  “Henry and I would like to help you.” Oh great, Henry is aware of this too. Grrrr! “Alright, what can I do?”  I really wanted to know, though secretly I thought these people were a bunch of whiney babies. I kept that thought to myself.

“Well, it seems the staff doesn’t feel you are listening to their concerns.” Again, I was surprised. I am a good communicator and that means I listen, don’t I?  How could this be?  As John pressed on, he was very kind.

I said, “Ok, thanks for letting me know, I will do better at listening.” Thinking that was all I needed, a reminder should do it!  

However, John went on, “Well, we have an idea that we think will help you.” Even though I wasn’t thoroughly convinced, I knew that if one person tells you that you are a horse, you should tell them to get back on their medication. But, if 3 people tell you that you are a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle. Since this was coming from John and Henry, I was open to finding out if I had something to learn. Perhaps it was time to buy a saddle. Hmmm.

John and Henry gave me 2 “listening” assignments. I complied and it highlighted that I really wasn’t a good listener after all. That gave me pause. So, my idea of myself wasn’t really accurate?  In an effort to improve my listening skills, I started repeating back what I thought I heard by saying “this is what I hear you saying, is that correct?”  Often, it wasn’t correct. Dang, this is harder than it looks. However, after doing this repeatedly, I really began listening in a different way.

John and Henry’s help was essential to seeing myself more clearly. Although it was uncomfortable to face this flaw about myself, ultimately it was for my own good.  By addressing a problem within myself, I was changing peoples’ experience of me.  As I began to improve, so did my relationships. I am grateful they cared enough to tell me the truth in a way I could hear it.

I wonder if you have someone in your life to ask about their experience of you. Tell them you want to grow and improve so you want the truth, even if they think it may hurt your feelings. If you have more than a couple people to check with, you will likely find a theme.

There is always room for improvement. As long as we don’t get defensive or reject the information, we can learn something important. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t a good listener, but I am sure this was how I had been for a considerable length of time. If anyone had tried to tell me before, I hadn’t heard them. Was it that I had gotten defensive and discounted the information? Was it “how” I was being told? I am not sure.  I do know that most of us shut down when we feel criticized or blamed and then we discount feedback.  Yet, being open to feedback is essential to our growth.

We don’t always see ourselves clearly.  It’s easy to see the speck in someone’s eye and miss the beam in our own. (Matthew 7:3) We need others to help us see clearly and help us grow. Receiving helpful feedback turned out to be a gift to me.  If you are brave enough to give it a try, I hope it is a gift for you too.


  1. Steve Scattaregia on March 28, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Maureen, in a word, outstanding. As I think about the lesson here I’m terrified of what I might hear and have to own. This is a gut check moment for sure. Thanks for sharing your story and setting a great example for us all. Can you point me to a good saddle store? 🙂

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm

      LOL! A saddle store. If there was one, I imagine I would have quite a collection by now. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  2. Ivan G Thompson on March 28, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    This was good stuff. I plan to share it!

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Ivan! :>)

      • Louisa Cochrane on April 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

        Hi maureen. I appreciate your story. Is there a good way to broach this question with those you care about to help you see yourself better? John broached you, not the other way around…..is there a book or seminar you suggest to learn how to teach us how to help each other? Hope this makes sense

  3. Bernadette on March 28, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Great Post, Maureen! So valuable! So helpful! I love that John and Henry gave you an assignment so that you could practice. After all… practice makes improvement, right? Thanks for sharing this. I don’t want to be defensive when I get critical feedback. I want to see it as a gift, even if it takes me awhile to unwrap it.

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks Ivan! :>)

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      Miss B, Thanks for weighing in. Yes, I am happy too though at the time, it was painful. Practice does make improvement but it also makes permanent too!

  4. Rev Kim M Joyner on March 28, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Thank You very much for sharing, Maureen, this is helpful for all of us to consider and engage in our own life experiences of growth!! I have certainly learned and grown from you folks and the opportunities I’ve had in the workshops, seminars, and personal growth sessions with John and Henry. Thank You11

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      Hey Kim, Happy to know you read the articles. Also glad to know you continue to benefit from your workshop experience. I always appreciate your prayers for our workshops. It makes a difference. Thank you!

  5. Grateful on March 29, 2019 at 3:37 am

    Awesome article and challenging too. Previous feedback, unsolicited observational remarks is definitely something I must face now without delay.

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks for weighing in. Yes, it is never easy to hear the negative truth about ourselves but if it is coming from a reliable source and someone we value, embrace it! Short term pain for a long term gain!

  6. Candace on March 29, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Maureen, what a well written, humble and heartfelt testimony you honretjy shared with all of us. Thank you! It truly is a reminder to everyone who reads it the value and importance of having honest people in our lives to give us life changing “reality check” feedback is what I call it, to help us grow and become a better person for it! So once again, thank you for sharing and using that one sentence you mentioned in your testimony I have tried that to at times from a church class on marriage and it really is powerful and works when utilized. What I heard you say effectively is: when we are open to constructive feedback we grow personally and our skills, relationships and job improves. Thank you again!

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      Thank you Candace. I appreciate your comments. In my experience, most growth comes with some growing pains. These often don’t feel good but it is a signal that something good is happening. My goal is to make “new” mistakes, not the same old ones. Hopefully, I don’t need to learn the same lesson over and over. Onward!

  7. JoAnne Huston on March 30, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Great article Maureen! “There is always room for improvement. As long as we don’t get defensive or reject the information, we can learn something important.“

    That’s really good stuff!

    • Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Jo! Always good to hear from you. Let’s get together soon! Hugs!!

  8. Paula Reich on April 1, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Maureen, thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share this. I am well aware of how I have deceived myself and don’t recognize my “stuff.” I am dealing with something right now that I need to receive (painful but needed) feedback from others and make some necessary changes. I appreciate your perspective!

  9. Maureen on April 3, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Paula, Thanks for your thoughts! Sounds like you are on a good path. Self Awareness is half of the battle. Until we see a problem we can’t fix it. Once we see it, we can’t un-see it. We can deny, deflect and blame but nothing good comes from that. (I tried that :>) Recognizing our imperfections should lead us to reach for “better” and still give ourselves grace to recognize that we are in the process of becoming more. Struggling to be perfect can be exhausting. We are in process! We are becoming more than we were and better than we even thought :>)

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