Self-Awareness as a Spiritual Discipline

Post by Kathleen Schwab

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“No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”
— (Deut. 30:14) NIV

Recently I read an article about self-awareness in Harvard Business Review. Of course it was from a perspective of self-awareness helping people in the workplace, but at the very beginning the piece said, Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal.”

 I thought, wait a minute. That list sounds like the goals of the Christian life. Confidence: God is always telling us not to be afraid. Creativity: We worship with the arts, and with His help we build things to improve our lives and care for each other. Good decisions: Scripture urges us to gain wisdom, to sharpen our judgement, to grow to full maturity. Stronger relationships: Christians should be known for communities, and also for personal love. More effective communication: Christians are called to strong churches, families, and work lives, and all of these need good communication skills. Sin avoidance: As a special bonus, self-awareness makes us less likely to do bad things like lie, cheat, and steal. We all know we shouldn’t be doing those things, but self-knowledge helps us live our ideals. The more you understand yourself, the better chance you have of shaping your behavior.

So self-awareness would help a Christian with a plethora of spiritual goals. But how exactly do we get to know ourselves better? The Harvard Business review suggested things like taking the Myers-Briggs personality test and finding a work mentor to tell you the truth about your job performance. Those things are all well and good, but I realized another approach is possible.

In Revelations of Divine Love Julien of Norwich wrote, “It is easier for us to get to know God than to know our own soul...God is nearer to us than our soul, for He is the ground in which it stands...so if we want to know our own soul, and enjoy its fellowship, it is necessary to seek it in our Lord God.” 

This is a different angle, the idea that we can best find ourselves by getting to know God. You definitely will not come across this advice in the Harvard Business Review, but it rings true. When God came into my life, I remember feeling as if I became a different person, but now I think that perhaps for the first time I began to become acquainted with myself. I think God lit a light inside me, and I saw my internal landscape at last.

Growing in self-knowledge by drawing closer to God gives us the perfect balance: the better we understand our Creator, the more confidence we can have in our place in His world. The more we understand His ways, the more we will know what we should keep in our lives, and what we don’t need anymore. The closer we draw to Him, the more we become ourselves.