Reflection: Romans 12.
Continuing from last week, how then do we know ourselves? Genuine self-knowledge is always within the context of experiencing ourselves in relationship with those around us. The proviso is our own mindfulness, which is not innate in most people, but an acquired skill. To be mindful is to be aware of how we affect each other by who we are, what we say or do not say, and our behavior and moods; in broader terms, a sensitivity to how we interpret and react to our environment. And if those relationships are on a significant level, any reflection of our experience within them involves an even deeper degree of knowing ourselves. A few probes include: What can I learn about myself from the way I relate to those closest to me? How do I manage conflict, intimacy, losses and anger in relationships? What irritates me easily? What am I most afraid of? In what ways do I attempt to control others and under what circumstances? To what am I most attracted in others? Such an awareness of the self can never be gained by isolating ourselves – either we come away with a ‘false self’ or become increasingly embittered. Being mindful of how we impact others by our individuality and possessing the mind of Christ in making the necessary changes to be more like Him, speaks volumes of our understanding and responses in being part of His Body. Apart from God, it is our community who will affirm our identity in Christ; they are a gift to us in knowing ourselves, including at times, the difficult ones.
Being in community, whether believing or otherwise, will inevitably surface the unpleasant side of our personality; the more intimate the level, the probability of our darkness being more frightening. Perhaps that is why family fights are usually acrimonious and surface the worst in us. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer 7:9) needs no rebuttal. We all know our capacity to deceive others, but it pales in insignificance when compared to our adeptness in deceiving ourselves. Kindergarten teachers abusing their young charges, church treasurers stealing from their congregations, and King David’s gradual ignominious fall (2 Sam 11-12) is illustrative of how subtle self-deception can be. Christian spirituality would entail us bringing our objectionable/sinful parts into the Christ-light to be enveloped by His transforming love, changing us into His imago Deo. This forgiveness and acceptance is perhaps the most precious part of our experience with our Lord and others.
To conclude, knowing ourselves necessitates our constant engagement with pain, suffering, and encountering the shadows within. Jacob was forced to confront his own darkness and resistance to what God desired for him (Gen 32:24-32). His fears of Esau were the symptoms of his own soul, entrenched by his self-will and independent spirit. Once the Lord addressed His supremacy over his human predicament, Jacob relented, a prelude to further experiencing his God’s gracious promises to him. Similarly, the goal of knowing oneself is self-transformation towards truthfulness and integrity, growth into Christlikeness and to deeply love those He has arranged in our paths so as to make God visible to them (John 17:20-21; 1 John 4:10-14).