Discovery is often a fascinating, satisfying experience–but sometimes oh, so painful! The most effective starting point in discovering yourself is to engage in self-discovery. How do you discover yourself?
The psalmist wanted to know himself, and he knew it would take God to help him do it: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24a).
The marriage relationship often brings out the best–and the worst–in us. Parents get to know their true selves through experiences with their children. Some persons get glimpses of themselves through working for or alongside others. The intense competition of sports will mirror the character of an athlete. Your relationships with people and your responses to the events of life will bring into focus both your qualities and your blemishes, both your strong points and your weaknesses.
It may be one thing for a person to say in apparent sincerity that he wants to know himself, but the experience of doing so is quite another. A revealing glimpse of yourself is seldom a welcome one.
If your self-image is to be meaningful, it must be measured against a standard. Here our premise is that regardless of the means to self-discovery, the Bible provides the standard, for the Bible is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It provides you with a knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20) and an understanding and a hatred of false ways (Psalm 119:104).
For example, if you find bitterness in your heart toward others, you must measure yourself against the biblical standard which states: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
Self-discovery can be painful. For this reason you will be tempted to shrink from it. Jesus saw this tendency in the Pharisees, and said they justified themselves before men (Luke 16:15). Another time He said that people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). They prefer not to come to the light because the light exposes their sins.
Not only does a man try to hide his true self from others, but also James warned that he may deceive himself: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Unfortunately, “Better to let sleeping dogs lie” is usually preferred to discovering yourself.
Self-discovery is painful because it uncovers streaks in your makeup that you wish were not there – but which cannot be wished away. It confirms what John wrote almost 2,000 years ago: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8).
The objective is not morbid introspection, but an inward look for the purpose of moving on to higher ground. What causes me to be the way I am? I want to know because I don’t want to live like this any longer.
Marriage, parenthood, a social situation, or your job may be the means to discovering your true self. But do not look for the root of your problem in your marriage partner or children or uncooperative neighbor; rather look for it in yourself. That which reveals a problem is not the problem itself. To treat the symptom is not to cure the disease.
For a life of peace, you must first discover your true self. Then to know what you have found, you must measure it by God’s standard. You will find yourself short–everyone does. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is the reason you need the help that only Jesus Christ can give you. He alone can make you what you ought to be.
This information is an excerpt of Chapter 2, “Discovering Yourself”, from Dr. Brandt’s book, The Struggle for Inner Peace, currently available as an e-book. Click here to read the entire chapter.