Posted on: December 9th, 2020 Thoughts on Self-awareness

For my entire adult life, I have loved to run, mainly long distances. Currently I am running about 30 miles per week. 30 miles a week of prayer, silence, solitude, breathing, taking in the light, listening to and for God.

Especially for my long runs, I will occasionally drive to White Rock Lake in Dallas (about 75 miles away from my home in East Texas), where there is a lovely running path encircling the lake. On a cool winder day with blue skies and sunshine, it is truly glorious.

I’ve been running around the lake for about 7 or 8 years now … nowadays about once a month (but in a previous stage of life I’d do it more like once a week). Lately—the last five or six times—I have noticed a cyclist who whizzes past me (and every other runner and walker on the trail) who, near the top of his lungs, yells out, with loud Texas drawl “HOWDY! GOOD MORNIN’!” This is something I have “noticed”—how could one not notice?—or, rather, something with which I have been confronted, almost in the form of an audible assault.

I am sure that this man is well-intentioned. Yet his blaring, booming “greeting” is also, at least for me, somewhat irritating.

This man—I am confident in asserting—lacks self-awareness.

What is self-awareness?

I do not have a technical definition in mind to share with you. And yet, having thought about this for over a decade now, I believe that I do grasp the essence of it. Self-awareness is the sensitivity one develops, the ability to see that certain of their actions—actions which are purportedly for the benefit of another—are actually performed for their own benefit, in order somehow to make themselves feel better.

Conversely a lack of self-awareness manifests itself when one fails to see this, to perceive this, to appreciate this.

When I was a small boy my dad (whom I love dearly, beyond words) used to put his hand on my head and rub my hair, drastically re-arranging it. “Good boy,” he’d say, as he rocked my head back and forth, turning my blond locks into a tussle of messiness. Then, with a couple more pats on the head (as if I were a canine), he’d say again: “Good boy.”

Now, I love my dad! He (like the cyclist) was well-intentioned, in a way. And yet … as he expressed or emoted his feeling of affection for me, did he really have my own good in view?

Or the cyclist: as he whizzes past the runners and belts out his morning greeting for all of Dallas to hear, is he truly motivated by a desire for the good of his neighbor?

Or, rather, is he actually doing something, performing an action, somehow for the benefit on himself? (Perhaps to call attention to himself, perhaps to be able to think or feel better about himself?)

I see this same tendency in myself frequently. Even with my dog or my cat—to return to the issue of semi-fierce caressing of hair or fur—I sometimes think, “Am I doing this for their good, or is this supposed to make me feel better?”

Even if the latter is my true motivation, it is good, at least, to be aware of it.

Share Button
Filed under: Me / Us, running, the Christian Life / Prayer | Comments Off on Thoughts on Self-awareness

Posted on: December 31st, 2012 Self-Awareness (& Community)

 I also posted this brief article on the website of St. Basil’s (Austin).

“Know Thyself.” It is impossible to overstate the importance of this maxim, carved over the entrance to the Temple of the Oracle at Delphi, to the mind of Socrates, to the heart of Jesus, to the daily, practical reality of living as a Christian.

Which is why a central part of the formation which anyone seeking Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church will undergo is an emphasis on “self-awareness.” Self-awareness, for example, of one’s “bedside manner,” the way one “comes across” to those she is ministering to, or simply interacting with. The way I respond to another – a friend, a spouse, a co-worker –  “in the moment” can reveal volumes (and layers) about what’s going on deep inside of me.

But, equally, self-awareness is the solitary discipline of examining one’s own life: one’s motivations, attitudes, tendencies, and habits. Ancient Christians practiced the discipline of examining the conscience, in which, perhaps before bed time, one slowly “replays” the videotape of the day. Why did I say that to this person? Did I really harbor that grudge? Did I really drink that much at that party? How can I choose to live better tomorrow?

It’s not about beating yourself up; it’s not about a “guilt trip.”  It’s about being honest, and taking the first steps toward honesty. The kind of honesty which is best achieved in relationship with a trusted friend or spiritual director who has traveled further down the road than I. The kind honesty which my “addictive self” tends to hide from. The kind of honesty which is forged only in a community of love, service, and mutual submission.

Share Button