When I'm running late for the train, I will be short with my wife; I will probably forget my lunch, and I will likely drive like a maniac, speeding through traffic, cutting people off, and gunning it through intersections as a yellow light turns to red.
If I don't recognize this behavior or its causes, I will act like an ass every time I am late for the train. However, if I have a certain amount of self-knowledge--namely, that that whenever I run late, I will behave like said hoofed mammal--I will be more free to choose my reaction. Instead of being short with my wife, I can share my feelings with her; I can tell her that I am frustrated with myself for not scheduling my time more effectively. By sharing my feelings with her, she might remind me to not forget my lunch and to drive safely.
Self-knowledge is the recognition of where I am, how I am, and who I am in any given moment. It is the "lamp of the body." When I am aware of where and how I am--that is, when the my "eye" is sound--I will know who I am--that is, my whole body will be filled with light. This is the True Self, that is, the person I am in God.
When I cannot recognize where or how I am--that is, when the eye is bad--then I will have no idea of who I truly am in God's eyes--my body will be in darkness. I will only know my False Self, an idol that I have created of what I think--or what others think--I should be; I will only see the masks that I hide behind.
How can you see through these masks? Here are four ways:
- Be honest about your current state. How are you doing? Of course, this requires freedom, a sense of detachment from the things that prevent you from being the loving person you are called to be.
- Describe your feelings. Instead of describing yourself in terms of a feeling (e.g., "I am angry), describe your feelings as feelings (e.g., I am feeling angry).
- Share your feelings. Talking to someone about how you are feeling might help you remain objective. Remember that you can always talk to Jesus in prayer.
- Imagine God's love. Imagine what love would compel you to do in the situation and picture yourself carrying out whatever that action may be. We are created out of love; when we behave in a loving manner, we will see through the mask and to our True Self.
Self-knowledge does not prevent me from feeling anxious, afraid, frustrated, or angry. Rather, it allows me to recognize these feelings for what they are--feelings. They do not define who I am. They are just masks that I often hide behind. Self-knowledge gives me the choice to take off that mask and attend to the person behind it; it helps me recognize that I am more than my feelings in any given moment.
This "more" of myself will ultimately lead me to God.