“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act I, Scene III
How can you be true to yourself if you don’t know yourself?
Let’s analyze a situation from the New Testament showing the importance of loving people but not allowing love to blindside you about the reality of who they are as a culture generally.
One of their very own prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason, rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith. Titus 1:12-13
Seems to me Paul made a blanket statement about all the people living on the island of Crete. Sounds pretty harsh, but he explicitly says it’s true. Don’t forget, Paul’s ministry began on the island of Crete. He made a man blind for three days there. Pretty controversial way of brining the Good News to the governor of Crete but that’s what happened. Thankfully Luke didn’t suffer from any of today’s woke sensitivities and recorded the history as it happened. Read the second half of chapter 13 in the Book of Acts for the full story.
This is Paul’s first miracle as an apostle. So he knew first hand something about Crete and the culture that shaped the people there. He knew what their poets had to say about their own people. And he agreed with them that it’s true. His faith didn’t blindside his objective perception of other people and cultures. He knew how to love people and gave his life to bring the Gospel to us clueless goyim (non-Jews). But he wasn’t blind to people’s shortcomings either.
He didn’t tell Titus that the Cretans shouldn’t be evangelized. He didn’t develop a theology of dooming the Cretans to damnation. He just had an objective assessment of where these people are at as a culture.
Paul wasn’t blind to his own shortcomings, or those of his companions. He was on a critical mission. He couldn’t afford to live in a mental fog about himself or others, given his mission.
If our lives are mission critical, can we I afford to live without having a good degree of self-awareness?
I ask this question even though the answer should be obvious. Yet we know that huge number of people don’t have much of self-awareness to speak of.
Science today acknowledges self-awareness as a complex and multifaceted aspect of human cognition and consciousness. Researchers from various fields, including neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science, have been trying to understand better self-awareness. Here are some key insights from current scientific perspectives:
- Neuroscience of Self-Awareness: Neuroscientists have identified specific brain regions associated with self-awareness, such as the prefrontal cortex. Studies using brain imaging techniques like fMRI and EEG have provided insights into how the brain processes self-referential information and self-perception.
- Mirror Neurons: Mirror neurons, a type of brain cell, are believed to play a role in our ability to understand and empathize with others, contributing to our self-awareness by connecting our experiences to those of others.
- Theory of Mind: Psychologists study the development of “theory of mind,” which is the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others. It plays a crucial role in our capacity for self-awareness and empathy.
- Metacognition: Metacognition refers to the ability to think about one’s thinking, and it is closely linked to self-awareness. Research in this area explores how individuals monitor and regulate their thoughts, emotions, and problem-solving strategies.
- Developmental Psychology: Studies in developmental psychology examine when and how self-awareness emerges in children and how it evolves throughout a person’s life.
- Disorders of Self-Awareness: Scientific research also investigates disorders of self-awareness, such as anosognosia (a lack of awareness of one’s own disabilities). Understanding these conditions helps shed light on the mechanisms of self-awareness in the brain.
I find all of this fascinating! I don’t have time to demonstrate it here but the findings of modern science actually align well with the information we have from the Bible when it comes to self-knowledge and self-awareness.
Much more can be said but let me wrap this up by summarizing my conclusions after 30+ years of first hand participation in Christian ministry all over the world.
I find the traditional Christian formula “Seek to know God only” as severely lacking. Seeking to know well ourselves should go hand in hand with the imperative of seeking to know God. Not knowing ourselves in a narcissistic way but knowing ourselves in the context of being his creation.
Jesus did say THE GREATEST commandment is to love God. But He also added the second “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and said it’s just as important as the first one!
Notice we are to love our neighbor as our own self. How can you love your own self?
True love to your own self is submitting your own self to the Creator and accepting the place He has for you. Accepting the place of being His creation, his child, with all the blessings and responsibilities it comes with. Only then can we love others well.
Only then can we grasp the full meaning of God’s Truth taught by the Torah (The Law) and the Neviim (The Prophets).
Matthew 22:36-40 (CSB) 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 “This is the greatest and most important command. 39 “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”