At the start of November, we began discussing the idea of seeking to understand ourselves, in particular, that understanding ourselves helps us also know God. (Find that here) Two weeks ago, we looked at a few personality tests that can help us begin to understand some of the ways that we operate, and some of our deeper motivations, as well as our gifts. (Find the tests here)
This post though is about giving us some tools that force self-reflection, and inner dialogue, while also being disciplines that will sustain us on the journey towards self-awareness. These tools are easily accessible, readily available and tools I believe will lead you to a lifelong gift of self-awareness!
This is the ultimate tool; there is nothing quite like God’s word to poke and prod into our lives. It will reveal to you your passions, your gifts. It will challenge you on your motivations; it will make you question how you interact with the world around you. It will give you guidelines for how to have a healthy soul; it will provide you with advice on how to relate to others and even why you struggle with your relationships.
The bible is the best tool that you can use to grow and develop in your journey of self-awareness.
I have had the Bible leave me in a place of awe-filled pondering as it has challenged me on why I am behaving a certain way. I have been brought to tears as it has reminded me of who I am at the core of my identity. It has led me to be a pastor, to write this blog and to love people who I didn’t think I would.
Some of the tools I use are things such as physical Bibles, or the best app for your phone is the YouVersion Bible App. They have the best functionality, great Bible reading plans and have just released the feature to do Bible reading plans with others, which is great for accountability and support. So get on it and if you want a friend to read the Bible with, add me!
A community is a profound tool we can use to help us understand ourselves, and we have been given this tool more as a gift. It’s the place where our rough edges rub up against others’ rough edges; it’s where others’ compassion births compassion for others in us. It’s a place where we can let our guard down, show people some of who we are and what we are wrestling with, and find support, comfort, encouragement, and the power to be changed.
For example, my fiancé has a soft, empathetic heart for others, and just by being in a relationship with her, it has helped me to become more empathetic, to be a little bit softer than I would often be. Community causes growth by osmosis.
And community has no app you can buy, no framework you can use, community takes intentionality. For some of you, you are in groups of friends that you wouldn’t say you can do this with, that you feel safe enough to be vulnerable. My encouragement to you is to find those people, they may be older than you, slightly out of your social circle, but if you want to see growth happen, it will happen in community.
Social psychologists say we become like the people we spend time around, and science has even been able to prove that our brain waves begin to synchronise when we are with other people for extended periods of time. Your brain literally begins to operate and function like those you are around. The question that leaves us with is, are they the people we want to be like? Will they help us be the best version of ourselves?
Community is a powerful tool, so make sure you use it.
Journaling is a bit of a lost art in the digital age, the ability to sit down, reflect and have an organised internal dialogue with yourself. I say organised because the real power that comes from journaling is that the nature of having to write your thoughts slows you down, it focuses you and helps you stay in a train of thought until you reach the end of it.
When I was going through a time of singleness in my early 20’s I spent time journaling about what type of woman I wanted to marry. Journaling brought a new level of clarity to these thoughts for me. People would have asked before then, and while I would have answers, they wouldn’t have been as crystalised as they were after journaling about it.
It forced me to slow down, think about what I was looking for, why I was looking for it, and what I needed, rather than what I wanted.
For example, I realised through journaling that I needed a woman who would stand up to me and not let me always get my, as I tended to prefer. That was a result of journaling and what helped me know my fiancé was the right one for me. She doesn’t let me get away with anything! (In a good way!)
My encouragement to you is to find a routine to journal. Find a space where you can focus, maybe even buy yourself a nice journal and a nice pen so that when you start, it’s a treat for you. Then, as you begin to see the fruit of it, you will seek it out naturally.
Journaling will help you reflect on yourself, and help you delve deeper into understanding yourself.
This is last, but not least. Prayer is a gift that I believe has been given to us by God.
As we spend time not just asking God for things, but talking and communicating with God through prayer, God reveals things to our hearts and minds that need to change. He gives us revelations of our behaviour, which are revelations of our motivations.
Prayer is a significant gift in our journey towards self-awareness, in particular, because prayer is free, and prayer is something that is always available and is the gift of communicating with the Creator and Sustainer of your life. That’s a great person to be talking to when you are trying to understand yourself!
Prayer has helped me understand things many many times. One that sticks out for me was that through prayer I noticed that often I would see people, circumstances and at times even God as being against me. Even though these people, such as my parents or God himself, were always for me, they wanted what was best for me, and they cared about me and only wanted me to be better.
I remember God saying to me, ‘Why do you think I am against you?’ It was incredible. Never ever would I have said God was against me, but deep down within myself, there was this lie that I was believing. God revealed this to me through prayer, because prayer enabled God to speak to me.
Prayer is a gift that I believe you need to use to help understand yourself. If you are reading this and you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian, I think that if you were to try to pray and even imagined that God was real, you would see the gift that prayer is when it comes to understanding yourself. Prayer is different to meditation; it isn’t an emptying of your mind, or having a dialogue with yourself. It is a conversation with the Creator and Sustainer of your life.
Give prayer a chance to lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself!
In these last six weeks, we have been able to see the need for self-awareness, and how it helps us understand ourselves and know God. We’ve also been able to realise that there are some fantastic tools available to help us understand ourselves, whether that is through various tests, or through tools that foster self-reflection. We can see a way forward to continue to grow in self-awareness for the rest of our lives.
As we know, growth requires an initial act, and the same principle applies for us to grow in self-awareness. I look forward to seeing and hearing about the growth that takes place in your life as you intentionally seek to understand yourself.