Growth in the spiritual life (Self – Awareness II)
Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely! Let me begin by thanking all of you who have made efforts to read, reflect, browse through and commented gratuitously and critically on the different topics of our Sunday hints for the spiritual life. I sincerely appreciate and I encourage us to do more since our faith can only grow through reading and hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). One of the recent comments that has necessitated a further sharing on awareness as a growth process in the spiritual life is the question of how to develop and attain our self – awareness?
Responding to the question above, permit me to say emphatically that no person teaches another how to discover, develop and attain self – awareness. You are your immediate teacher (determination). Our parents/guardians/teachers are our temporal and spiritual intermediaries while God is our ultimate teacher. So, we are our proximate teachers because it all depends on each and every one of us. Yes, you are to desire the need to know yourself and God blesses your determination with His graces. We have to prayerfully imitate St. Augustine who prays, “Lord, may I know myself.” This confirms the saying, “where there is a will there is a way.” Meaning, no matter how difficult it may be to know ourselves, it will not be impossible. Again, the journey of self – awareness has two major levels. It is a movement from what is known about ourselves to the unknown aspects of ourselves.
It is pertinent to note that the task of self – awareness is ongoing. Therefore, no one can claim to know his/herself completely. For psychologists like Daniel Goleman, self – awareness entails emotional self – awareness, accurate self – assessment (knowing our strengths and limitations) and self – confidence (knowing our self – worth and self – esteem). However, from our understanding of the human person as an integrated being – body, mind and soul, self – awareness begins from being conscious that we are human as well as spiritual. Thus, it is about getting in touch with our beliefs and emotions, values and attitudes, behaviours and meaning/purpose in life.
Apart from desiring self – awareness, the following can assist us to discover and develop our self – awareness: the Johari window: this window reveals the enormity of the task of self – awareness. It says there are four aspects of ourselves that we need to pay closer attention to – the Known (things we know about ourselves and others know about us), the Hidden (things we know about ourselves and others do not know about us), the Blind (things others know about us but we do not know about ourselves), and the Unknown Self (things neither we nor others know about us). We can take care of the known things about our lives as the stories of our lives. If we pay attention to the narratives of our lives, we will discover so much about ourselves. The focus here is about our experiences and how we are able to draw meanings out of them. This involves flashing back as far as our memories can carry us. Then we can daily meditate on our lives’ stories for an inner discovery of the relationship of our visible and invisible self. Furthermore, we can take care of our hidden self through journaling and counselling. And for our blind self we need feedbacks from people who know us (this calls for openness and receptivity on our part). Finally, we need God through His Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit to assist us to unfold our unknown self through His gift of wisdom, divine inspirations, illuminations, revelations, psycho – spiritual therapy and spiritual direction. Let us pray like St. Augustine: “Lord, may I know myself.” Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely! Fr. John-Mary Atep.