Knowing what one is made of is difficult stuff. It is easy enough to talk about, but it is difficult work to accomplish. Today is the Feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo. (Yesterday was his Mother’s day – St. Monica.) In Confessions Augustine writes about how very tough it is to know oneself:
“No one knows what he himself is made of, except his own spirit within him, yet there is still some part of him which remains hidden even from his own spirit; but you, Lord, know everything about a human being because you have made him…Let me, then, confess what I know about myself, and confess too what I do not know, because what I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me, and what I do not know I shall remain ignorant about until my darkness becomes like bright noon before your face.”
Read the above quote a couple of times if you will. I read it again this morning in prayers and found that I needed to read it over a few times. As I read it the third time I became consciously aware that there is so much of myself that is hidden, even from me. We all have parts of ourselves that we make visibly known to the world around us. Then we have bits of ourselves that we make known to those who are closest to us. Then there are bits of ourselves that we know, that we are aware of, that we keep locked away. We do so because of fear, insecurity, or even self-loathing. But even beyond what we know about ourselves, what hidden from others, I think Augustine was right that there are also parts of us that are ‘hidden even from our own spirit.’
God knows us entirely, and I believe that what we know of ourselves is what God has revealed to us when we have been ready to listen to God’s voice. We have all had those ‘a-ha’ moments where we all at once saw the world as we had not seen it before. Those moments where we tuned in to what is happening within us in response to outside forces around us. So it becomes important for us to ask God to guide us to a deep sense of self and to ask God to teach us how that sense of self relates to those around us.
Wendy Evans, a marketing guru writes about the need to find a sense of self-awareness.
“When you understand yourself you will understand what is going on around you”
Jonathan Payne, a Leadership Coach, expands on her thoughts saying:
“Self-understanding is fundamental to success/relationship. It requires an honesty, which acknowledges our imperfections and an understanding that we have developed definite preferences and prejudices about life. Having imperfections, preferences and prejudices is all part of being human. But it is the failure to recognize the influence they have on our everyday decisions and actions which hinders our progress [with others].” – parenthesis are mine.
Seeking God’s help then we ask for the courage of faith and the maturity of character to ask God to allow ‘our darkness to become like bright noon.’
We are far to quick to allow outside forces to define our joy and our sorrow, our failures and our successes, our victories and our defeats. On this Feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, we pray to become more aware of who we are. We ask God to for illumination and revelation. May we be less ignorant of our own preferences and prejudices and more aware of who and whose we are – God’s beloved!