How we respond to God and others is greatly impacted by how we see ourselves. Often folks misunderstand the idea of self-awareness. They mistakenly believe self-awareness to be self-centred, selfish and arrogant. Healthy self-awareness is something quite different.I remember the first time I heard the concept of self-awareness. From my fundi-evangelical worldview, it brought up images of hippies and psycho-babel. My faith background taught me indirectly to hate myself, to obliterate it, to deny my dreams and desires as evil because, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
For many years I found myself relating not only to other people but to God Himself through a false pious self, denying my humanity, my dreams, and passions. Interestingly, God did not meet me in the false self as much as He did in those places which were authentic. When Jesus became Lord of my life God invaded my inner man, my true self, and from the inside out He began dismantling the masks and inner fortifications which inhibited deeper relationship. Through this process, which continues today, the Lord deals with the self-deceptions and false beliefs that have buried what is truly Michael Rose, revealing day by day my true humanity, my sonship. This is Christian formation.
Self-awareness is a gift of self-discovery in the context of God Himself. It is in Him we experience acceptance by God Himself through Christ, and strangely, a growing sense of self-acceptance. Not an acceptance of that which is false, but rather of who we truly are, and we discover much grace which leads to progressive wholeness. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of the fourth degree: loving oneself for God’s sake, and I believe this is the grace of healthy self-awareness.
If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.- Daniel Goleman.
The fruit of self-awareness through the Love Paradigm develops a safe relationship with ourselves. The barrage of negative self-talk diminishes as we come to accept who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, and postures us in a place of rest and peace. Furthermore, from the safety of healthy self-awareness and acceptance, we can better respond to the correction and healing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through self-awareness we are less likely to be critical of others as we are no longer seeking to have our need for acceptance met through them, nor are we to be hyper-critical of their deficiencies which mirror those we perceive in ourselves. It is no secret that often the things we are most critical of others is often things we dislike in ourselves.
Research is demonstrating that increasing our mindfulness increases our ability to connect in a deeper way, being more empathetic with others. In fact, research is demonstrating that self-awareness affects brain structure promoting the development of neurological circuits which may be involved in attuning us to the intentions and experiences of others.* This means we become more likely to extend mercy and forgiveness to others as we experience it ourselves. As we become safe within ourselves, it allows us to be safe for others, to connect on a deeper level thereby increasing the opportunity for richer relationships.
* Daniel J. Siege. The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in Cultivating Well-being (New York: Norton. 2007)