Do You Know Yourself?
“Know thyself!” In Greek and other ancient civilizations, self-knowledge was viewed as the paragon of wisdom. There are obvious practical benefits in knowing oneself. Knowing our aptitude will help us find a major/career that fits us well. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses will help us maximize our efficiency and recruit the right kind of help. This kind of self-knowledge should be easy to obtain, considering how many personality tests and assessment tools are available these days.
But utilizing these tools may not be as easy as it seems. The accuracy of the result depends on how truthfully we can answer the questions. Can we be sure that our answers are accurate? It’s not easy to tell whether our answers reflect who we really are or what we wish to be, what we would actually do or what we think we should do.
How accurate do you think your self-assessment is? Would others, who know you well, agree? Or, would they say you are over-estimating yourself or under-estimating yourself? If they took one of those personality tests for you, how similar do you think their answers will be to your own? And if you were allowed to read your professor’s recommendation letter, would you be flattered or disappointed?
Many scientific and sociological studies show that we are quite biased toward a high view of ourselves. According to Prof. Mark Leary,
“A U.S. News and World Report survey asked 1,000 Americans to rate whether they and various celebrities were likely to go to heaven. Of the celebrities, Mather Teresa ranked highest on the list: 79%.... When asked about themselves..., 87 percent... indicated that they were destined to go to heaven. Put simply, respondents thought that they were personally more likely to go to heaven than anybody else on the list, including Mother Teresa” (“Get Over Yourself,” Psychology Today, July/August, 2004).
How about you? Do you think you have a better chance than Mother Teresa? God, who knows us perfectly and fully, says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, KJV). That’s because God does not just look at what we do; God also sees all our hidden motives--how we do things for others with impure motives because we are afraid of what they may say if we don’t; because we want to fit in with the crowd; because we want to win other people’s approval and praise, etc.
All this may sound offensive. But it may not sound so wrong in those quiet moments when you can be true to yourself and see that you are far from perfect. The Bible is not saying we are as bad as we can be but our character is tainted by selfishness and pride. Truth hurts, they say. Yet the truth is the first step to healing. If we don’t realize how sick we really are, we won’t seek treatment. This is why the very first step of the AA’s 12-step recovery program is to admit the truth by saying, “My name is so and so and I’m an alcoholic.” Denying our problem will only delay the inevitable and make our problem get worse.
The Christian message is an invitation to truth and love—the truth of our sinful condition and the love of God, which tells the truth about us so we can come to Him for His restoration, healing, and redemption in Jesus Christ. “Truth is harder than a lie / The dark seems safer than the light / And everyone has a heart that loves to hide. / I’m a mess and so are you.... / Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not, / Living life afraid of getting caught. / There is freedom found when we lay our secrets / Down at the cross, at the cross...” (Francesca Battistelli, “If We’re Honest”).
Why at the cross? For it’s there a momentous redemptive exchange took place: we are pardoned because Jesus received our punishment; we are accepted because Jesus was rejected by God in our place; we are healed because He was wounded for our transgression; we are given a new life because Jesus died our death. What can give you greater security than this fact that God, who knows all the truth about you, still loves you with His everlasting love? This truth can sustain you through all the ups and downs of your life, through all your setbacks and disappointments. We may not be able to attain full, accurate self-knowledge. But there is Someone who knows us perfectly. He invites us to a relationship with Him we can know Him and, thereby, know ourselves truly. You can enter into that relationship the moment you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Redeemer and what He has done for your redemption. We pray that today is the day!