Have you ever had a moment where you have done something and found yourself thinking afterward ‘why did I just do that?”
I’ve had that experience. I was about 22 at the time, and some of my friends and I decided we wanted to grab some hot chips and hang out at a park. We bought the chips and were arguing whether to go to the park in Buninyong or the one at Lake Wendouree. One of my friends and I wanted to go to Lake Wendouree; the other four wanted to go to Buninyong, so we were outnumbered. As we went to get into the two cars, I realised I had the chips and got in the car with my friend who also wanted to go to Lake Wendouree. I looked at him and said, “well look who has the chips… let’s go to Lake Wendouree and then they will have to follow us.” Off to the lake, we went, as you can imagine everyone else was furious at us. In particular me, they all knew I had led the revolt.
I remember sitting there while I was receiving the cold shoulder from everyone and thinking to myself, “Why was I like that today.”
I’m sure you have had that moment, a moment where you realised a part of who you were was clashing with others, potentially even pushing others away and you found yourself asking why.
These moments are moments where we have the drive to understand ourselves; this process is called the pursuit of self-knowledge or self-awareness.
And it is always the drive to find out what makes us live the way that we do. Why we prefer things to operate specific ways, or prefer to communicate in clear patterns.
The moment above started my journey to self-understanding. But it was during a season of spiritual formation that this flame fanned into a fire.
I remember reading a quote that said: “knowledge is power, self-knowledge is a superpower.”
But even more powerful is this quote from John Calvin
“ Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, but without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”
This quote almost seems heretical, but in my reflection on it over the years there have been three things that have become clear from it and prove it’s point.
1. Self Knowledge shows us where God needs to remove things from us
That day, God showed me that I was someone who was someone who had to be in control.
The need to be in control was something that God needed to remove from my life. Most important because that issue came when I had to be in control, and I struggled to surrender my control to God.
I always struggled to let him in, to let him lead, guide and control my life. I felt I knew what I needed to do, whether it was with money, with my friendships or even leading a youth ministry. I thought I always had to be in control. God needed to remove that from me if I was going to grow in my relationship with him. Being in a relationship with a control freak is hard.
2. Self Knowledge, show us where God wants to grow things in us!
Self-awareness is an opportunity to look at your life and see where God wants to add things to it.
My fiance is an EQ genius; she could walk into a room and know what people are feeling, how to empathise with them and help them, all within the first five seconds.
Quickly, I learned that I would walk into a room and have no idea that someone in the back corner was upset, nor that I was the one who had upset them. Through my fiance’s gift God showed me that this was something missing from my life, and yet something I found in the presence of Jesus. This started a desire in my life for me to grow in it. To the point that sometimes my fiance and I practice making faces embodying emotions and helping me practice noticing and being sensitive to them.
It was only through self-awareness that God was able to add that to my life.
3. Self Awareness leads to understanding.
Not just understanding ourselves, but understanding others. As we come to know how we work, the strengths, weaknesses, the motivations we carry. The history that has lead us to act the way that we do, it leads us to an understanding that what happens within us, is happening within everyone else.
We see people do things that we think are unhelpful, and slowly remember that there are so many things we do, that others think are useless.
We begin to show empathy, grace and extend understanding to others because we are reminded of the powerful beauty that is found in the diversity of humanity.
That if everyone was like me, there might have been a lot more fighting and a lot less emotional understanding. Also that I need people of all types around me to give me an awareness of the full beauty of humanity and through them a whole vision of God.
Self-awareness is a remarkable journey to go on.
It is critical to cutting back the things we don’t need in our lives, but also adding things that are crucial to our flourishing. It then not only changes us but changes how we engage with others, through a lense of grace, empathy, and understanding.
Next blog post (First Wednesday of December), we are going to be looking at some tools that will help you go on the journey of self-awareness.
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Looking forward to watching you continue to grow.