Getting to Know Me
The starting point is self-discovery. 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” (Ps. 139:23-24a).
How do you discover yourself?
Through their marriage Ann and Jack learned some things about themselves. 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.
You can see yourself in the Bible, “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Bible is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It provides you with a knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20) and an understanding and a hatred of false ways (Ps. 119:104).
Through the eyes of your friends you can find out much about yourself. Jesus said to rebuke one who wrongs you, being ready, of course, to forgive him (Luke 17:3).
Paul advised that “you who are spiritual” should inform another of his fault (Gal. 6:1). The clear implication is that if someone else has a shoe of criticism that fits you, you should put it on gracefully.
Who is spiritual? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Only if you react to someone else’s faults “in the Spirit” should you point out their shortcomings. In other words, awareness of someone else’s faults is first an occasion for personal soul-searching. When your heart is right, then seek to help someone else.
For the purpose of perfecting His people, God has also ordained pastors, evangelists, and teachers (Eph. 4:11-12). One who clearly exhibits the marks of his God-given call cannot only help you see yourself, but help you grow into maturity as you deal with the truth you discover.
A Painful Process
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 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 Thess. 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 James warned that he may deceive himself: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, italics added). Unfortunately, “Better to let sleeping dogs lie” is usually preferred to discovering yourself.
For Jack and Ann, discovering their true natures was indeed a painful process. They considered themselves sincere Christians-–and they were. They believed they were devoted to each other and dedicated to a like-minded partnership–and they were. To them, their sincerity meant that if their objectives were askew, God would have revealed this to them. God was at work in their lives, but it did not seem like it–-not with this thick wall of silence between them, or Ann’s tears, or Jack’s temper.
What caused the buildup of their “crisis”? To get the answer, each had to want to know the truth about himself. And so do you, to solve your problem. Ask yourself these questions:
• What am I really like?
• What does a pat on the back do for me?
• What does a rebuke do to me?
• What happens when I am crossed? mistreated? misunderstood?
As time went on, Jack gradually discovered that though he had given in to Ann consistently, there were deep-seated reservations in his heart and vague irritation over some of his decisions to go along with her logical arguments. He accepted her neatness and thrift and the pace she set for him in church activity. He accepted intellectually, that is–but not wholeheartedly. He was like the little boy who, when told by his father to sit down in the car, sat down but said that inside he was still standing up.
Jack’s experiences with Ann brought him to discover himself. Conditions in his job confirmed his discovery. He realized he was doing the same thing there–-conceding to well-reasoned propositions outwardly, but not inwardly. As the Apostle Paul put it: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23).
Jack had strong opinions of his own, and did not readily accept the views of others. With friends, he could drift in and out of associations, which he did frequently in an effort to be comfortable. But when he married, he could not trade his wife for another when she annoyed him. The result was a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Since he could not escape from this discomfort, he tried to isolate himself from it by building a wall between himself and Ann.
On that rainy day, his dissatisfaction suddenly flared, and he himself was surprised by it. Fortunately, that shouting episode brought his problem into focus. He saw that he could not admit to himself that he was making concessions he did not want to make, even though he was agreeing verbally to what was reasonable, logical, and desirable. He had discovered his selfish nature.
But what was he to do with this discovery, or insight? He could deny or ignore it, and be like the man who looked at himself in the three-way mirror while buying a suit and was horrified by his double chin and bulging waist. The man’s response from then on was to stay away from three-way mirrors. Jack could also admit the truth of his discovery, but confession would not have meant automatic correction.