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There are a lot of things I wish I had known in my 20s: the rather unflattering nature of khaki trousers; the importance of sleep; the gift of maintaining a size 8 whilst eating Taco Bell and frozen pizza; the joy of consuming actual fresh vegetables. But right at the top of that list? Myself. I wish I had known myself better.
It would have saved me a lot of anxiety, tears, and guilt about things over which I had no control, and empowered me to take joy, be confident, and grow into many things over which I did.
“Know Thyself.” This ancient maxim, written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi, and used by several of the ancient Greek philosophers, remains one of the wisest pieces of advice handed down through the ages. (It is also one of the most difficult.)
Why is it so important to know yourself?
Simcha Fisher wrote a great piece recently, reflecting on how a diagnosis of diabetes in their family has changed the way she thinks about food – but not just food. The whole notion of how one way of thinking might be just fine in one particular set of circumstances, but not in another, made her question how freely she remains open to change in her spiritual life.
“There is one constant: We must know, love, and serve God. But the specifics are surprisingly subjective. What God wants from me, to keep my soul nourished, is not necessarily what He wants from you.”
“This is a familiar lesson. Maybe we’re comfortable with the idea that we are one body with many members, and that diverse vocations are a feature, not a bug. But are we aware that our own vocations may be good and useful and pleasing to God for a while — and then may abruptly change? That the thing that used to nourish me yesterday might suddenly become the last thing I need?”
I wrote recently about how grace and nature both need to grow together in our lives. Lots of Christians seem to be fascinated by spiritual growth, but occasionally forget that basic human elements of us need work, too!
In order to grow and change for the better, we need to know both what we are growing towards, and where we are growing from. Most of us have an instinctive understanding of what it means to be a better person. Virtuous people are not selfish – they are generous. They care about others. They are willing to speak the truth, in love. They inspire and encourage others, simply by being themselves. Most of us know what kind of person we’d like to be. Continue Reading