The title was what grabbed my attention, as it was a question I had to work with over 15-years ago. I’ve never been comfortable sitting under the gaze of another, let alone God. I had some success all those years ago, but its still difficult, and I’m still working with Carl’s questions.
Here’s an excerpt from Carl’s reflection:
“…[S]elf-knowledge is not necessarily an easy thing. In Practical Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill said, “Few can bear to contemplate themselves face to face; for the vision is strange and terrible, and brings awe and contrition in its wake. The life of the seer is changed by it for ever.”
So what does it really mean to know yourself? What is the contemplative dimension of such essential self-knowledge?
I think there are at least four ways we can know ourselves, and we need to make sure we are paying attention to all four…
… Knowing yourself psychologically. Like physical wellness, mental health is something that requires both self-knowledge and self-care. Again, my questions: Am I paying attention to my mood, noticing when I am sad or depressed, irritable or angry, nervous or obsessive? Am I responding to my internal fears and anxieties with love and self-care? Do I practice “mental hygiene,” working to make sure I keep my thoughts positive, hopeful, and encouraging? When I am out of sorts, or angry or depressed, do I seek out connection with a loved one, good friend, or counselor? Am I honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses (for example, by nature I tend to be optimistic and upbeat, but since I’m an introvert I have to make an effort to be outgoing in many social situations), and take responsibility for trying to nurture a loving sense of self?
Knowing yourself ethically. Now we are getting into the waters of faith. God calls us to be good — to be manifestations of God’s own truth, goodness and beauty; the extent to which we do this (or fail to) represents our ethical make-up. Do I have a clear sense of virtue (love, responsibility, fairness, compassion, hard work, honesty, humility and so forth) and seek to foster such virtues in my life? Am I willing to be honest about my foibles — my sins, my failings, my vices, whether minor (a penchant for spending too much time on Facebook) or more problematic (a tendency to over-spend or to drive too fast)?...”
You can find his complete reflection here.