Self Knowledge

Do we really know who we are? What makes us tick? Why do we do things and afterwards we feel badly about doing them? We feel badly that we didn’t have more will power. We feel badly that we allowed something to happen. We ask ourselves, “Why did I allow myself to do that?” It seems that we act, and THEN ….think. We allow our emotions to control us, and then, afterwards, (always afterwards) we see our mistake, we realize that our choice was bad. We want to be a better person, a better Christian, but we fail so very often. It is then that discouragement sets in. We throw our hands up and wonder aloud, “What is wrong with me?” Nothing is wrong with you. You might be looking in the wrong place.

We want to be a better person, a good person…dare I say it, a holy person? But, to grow as a person, we must realize that the foundation of all growth, all holiness must first be based on knowledge and acceptance of ourselves. How can we grow in faith, or love, which are gifts from God, if we don’t allow ourselves to grow? And here is the basic question: why don’t we want ourselves to grow? Are we so tethered to the world, so mired down in it, that growth is impossible? The world wants us to do this, but not that. We are afraid to do anything where the world would laugh at us. We are fearful that that the world find us contemptible. What do we feel inside that causes us to act in a certain way, because someone might look down on us? Doesn’t it mean that we value their opinion of us more than we value our own life? More than we value our own opinion? Are we allowing the world to dictate to us? “Don’t do that; we will laugh at you. Don’t do that; we will think something is wrong with you. Do this; you’ll be part of our crowd. Do this; you will feel comfortable, you will feel happy.” The world has an allure all its own and very often, we succumb to it.

Sometimes, the entrapment is not from the world, outside, but from within us. These inner entanglements might be a buried fear, a desire to excel, a craving for acceptance, or one of a long list of other covered over, almost forgotten, yokes around our necks. We lose our temper, and wonder why. We refuse to do a daily chore, but not really sure what inside of us is telling us not to do it. We confess the action, but don’t seek out the embedded reason which resulted in the action, in the first place. I think an example is definitely in order, here. A person loses their temper over something said. Feeling bad, they go to Confession and tell the priest, “I lost my temper”. The danger here is that we are confessing the result. We are annoyed that a negative and harmful action was the result. BUT, we are not seeking out the why. Why did the saying or the doing trigger the anger, in the first place? Whatever was said or done, struck a very tender nerve. Many times, the explosion of anger, far exceeds, what is said or done. The nerve within is the real cause of the anger. This is what needs to be addressed. This is what needs to be confessed.

I am not saying we need to consult a psychologist. I am simply saying that we stop too soon in our soul searching. We stop at the obvious and go no further. This is where ‘knowledge of self’ is important. If we truly wish to grow then we need to build upon or re-build that which is within. We cannot stop at the anger, the harsh words, the finger-pointing, the desires, the fears, the cravings, or whatever else there is that is manifested in our lives. What is within us that causes these “manifestations” to come about? That is our task.

Whenever we seek to grow, whenever we wish to understand ourselves, and to know what makes us ‘tick’, self-knowledge is always the first step. Stripping out anger, never to do it again, but without knowing why it was there in the first place, will simply result in some other “thing” taking its place. We build on sand, or we build on concrete. Which house will withstand the onslaught of time? We must understand what nerves within us are fragile, and the WHAT AND WHY’s that cause them to be aggravated. Now we have a clue of what needs to be done. The emotional explosion is simply a manifestation that something within us needs fixing. We don’t stop at the explosion, but seek God’s help, Mary’s help to understand what needs to addressed in our life, in our growth. Prayer is not simply aimed at the angers, fears, and worries of life. It is also asking for help in the understanding of ourselves, and the guidance to look within us and to grow. “Lord, I accept my limitations. I will strive to grow closer to You. Send your Holy Spirit to help me, in my journey towards You.”