Finding God's Winning Spirit

Know Thyself Pt. II

February 5, 2016 | Greg Smith | Focus


As I mentioned in part one of Know Thyself, there are many hindrances to self-awareness. We mentioned some of the roadblocks to self-knowledge such as personal rationalization, fear of criticism, inability to accept feedback, etc.  Our pursuit of “knowing thyself” led us to questions like – What then is the key to self-awareness? Where can we get some guidance?  Who can we trust for honest feedback? How can we get the courage to hear and accept the truth?

The challenge and importance of knowing ourselves is not new. Although many of us think that the origin of “Know thyself” is biblical it in fact is not. “Know thyself” was actually inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece and has been attributed to at least six Greek philosophers including Pythagoras and Socrates. From what I can tell Plato and Socrates used “know thyself” both as a command and pure advice to “know one’s place” or to be “temperate.”

If we are to pursue self-awareness the obvious path could call for things like psychological and IQ testing, a personality indicator, some family history work through counseling, etc. All of these are valuable and helpful but because this is a large part of what I do on a daily basis I can tell you that when it comes to complete self-knowledge and understanding we will need more.

In my mind true self-awareness is founded in theology not psychology. If we are to completely understand ourselves we need to know “from whence we came.”  Therefore, in my mind, true self-awareness not only starts with God, it is a process – a process He is active in.

John Calvin argued that “one could not truly know God without knowing oneself and vice versa.” According to Calvin, “The knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie …man never attains a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself” (Institutes, 1.1.1).

For me, the Bible teaches us through three basic revelations. Through God’s Word we are taught who God is, who man is, and the relationship between the two. One of the lies we tell ourselves is that over time we have become much smarter than Adam, that we have somehow become more self-aware and faithful. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I tell my clients, “The message of the Garden will be lost if we do not accept the fact that we are Adam”.  

In my view we might understand ourselves better if we focused on the downfall of Adam (my sneaking suspicion is that those flaws are still at play in you and me). After all, it is often easier to really see ourselves in the actions of others. The good news here is that along with the flaws of Adam comes the fact that he was made in God’s image – perfect in every way. The dichotomy in Adam (and you and me) is although there is certain “falling short” there is also unlimited potential. It is between these two points of reality that we live our lives.     

So what are the answers to: What then is the key to self-awareness? Where can we get some guidance?  Who can we trust for honest feedback? How can we get the courage to hear and accept the truth? 

The answers are the same:  God our Father.


"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test”?                        2 Corinthians 13:5 


“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

                                    2 Peter 1:3

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