Growth in the spiritual life: Self-awareness
Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely! The Lord Jesus Christ says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last,” (John 15:16). And the great philosopher Socrates says that an unexamined life is not worth living. That means in life we need to grow and be fruitful. As we grow chronologically, our mental age (virtues, values and ideas) ought to also flourish or correspond with our physical age. This could also be applied in the spiritual life, lived and led by spiritual persons making a human journey. So, what are the constituents of growth in the spiritual life which concomitantly result in fruits? They consist in: self-awareness (man know thyself), interior recollection (life in the spirit), quest for holiness/sanctity, self – evaluation, cultivation of virtues and the capacity to transform hurts into gifts, etc. Therefore, let us begin to explore these elements of growth in the spiritual life by beginning with self – awareness.
Self – awareness is the most trivialised and underestimated aspect of our human lives. It is so because we claim to know when in actual fact we don’t know. And the problem is this: we are not aware that we are unaware or we do not know that we do not know. The problem of huge blindness! We claim to know our awareness because of our will and the ability to control. But wait for some seconds, are we really in control? Exercise: stay for a minute without wandering thoughts and imaginations. You see that we are not in control. So, the topic of self – awareness is very tricky because if we are not open and humble, we would keep living in the gigantic deception that we are aware of our awareness. Furthermore, it will be difficult if not impossible to be fruitful in relationships, businesses and ultimately the spiritual life if we do not know and have awareness. Self – awareness is a must for understanding our focus and drive in life. If we care about self – actualisation, then we have to take care of our self – awareness.
Thus, we need to take some moment to define what self – awareness is. There is this perennial question we are usually asked: “Who are you?” The question addresses self – awareness in a sense. Our answers are usually our names, gender, nationality, race, job, religion, height, weight and so forth. However, these are inconstant elements that cannot define an entity called the SELF & ITS AWARENESS. They are efforts made by the world to define us. Most times, mistakes are made by the application of such variables for the definition of the self and its awareness. The same is true about our own efforts in defining ourselves through our ability to perceive our thoughts, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and emotions. Again, these are inconstant and because of their transitory nature we cannot subscribe to them in our attempt to define ourselves. Rather than just define ourselves in piecemeal, it would be best to define ourselves in an integrative manner. Where we understand ourselves to be an integration of body, mind and soul. Self – awareness, then is the ability to know, think, remember and perceive the integration of our body, mind and soul. This is exemplified in our capacity to know, think, remember and perceive our feelings and actions in the now that is supported by our experiences.
As a sign of growth in the spiritual life, one is said to be making progress in the spiritual life, if he/she is aware of the self and its purpose in life. The self does not exist in a vacuum. It has its source and goal. That is given to us by the Magisterium and the Bible as the teaching agencies of the Church. So, the scripture says “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27). The catechism of the Church explains the scriptural origin of man by describing vividly the purpose of man – to know God, to love God, serve God and attain happiness here and in the next world (heaven). A spiritual person who is growing in the spiritual life will be aware of the origin of his/her – self, its purpose and final end. These must be constantly registered in the integrated person who is body, mind and soul.
Consequently, it is not easy to attain self – awareness. It ought to be a daily need and pursuit. It has two dimensions: to know and have self – awareness. So one may know something about self – awareness but without having it. Let us end here with the quote: “It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are” (St. Teresa of Avila). Lord help us to know ourselves in order to be disposed to serve you according to your will. Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely! Fr. John-Mary Atep.