Knowing Self and Others


As the mantra of the mental health profession, knowing self and others is important to all human relationships.  It is very helpful to understand self to the extent of being aware of motives, psychological drivers, values, fears, denials, hang-ups and other psyche “things” that operate in living life.  The same factors are at play in understanding others.  The theory is that unless we have a clear understanding of the good and bad of human nature, others’ and ours, we are not in a position to help ourselves or anyone else.

Everyone seems to have an idea about what makes others “tick,” but far less about personal “tocks.”  One hindrance to seeing self clearly is the use of “denial.”  Denial is one defense mechanism, among others, that protects us from personal discomfort or trauma.  That is, our personhood may be fragile enough that if we ever see clearly who and what we really are, we might not have the psychological/emotional strength to deal with such truth.  Most have enough honesty to admit some flaws in order to live normal lives and keep fairly sane, sort of.

We have little problem seeing the use of such devices by others whom often do not see it in themselves.  We seem to be good at seeing flaws in others, which are sometimes accurate, yet unable to see the same ones in ourselves.  We are often mystified by those who are intelligent, educated, and oft times spiritual yet who display an ignorance about their denials.  People will look at us exactly the same way (scratch the intelligent for some of us).  It goes back to knowing self and others, which we never understand completely.  While these mechanisms serve a useful purpose at times, excessive and prolonged use is dysfunctional.

That is the theory (simplified) from a psychological perspective, but what about “know thyself,” from a Biblical view?  There is some crossover between the secular field of mental health, and the Biblical version.  I believe that anytime the “world” stumbles onto a truth about human nature, and it does happen, it will be found initially in the Word of God.  Often the “world” will write volumes about such a topic when Scripture sums it up in maybe several verses.

However, the two systems of knowing self and others, secular and Biblical, are considerably different.  Since psychology, or secular social science, believes that man is basically good by nature, elaborate structures must be theorized in order to account for the daily experience that all is not well with human behavior.  In fact one cannot look at the world with its inhumanity to man, and logically come to that conclusion, yet they keep saying it and believing.  If anyone doubts the reality of denial, that position alone is certain verification.  To believe something in spite of the facts is a classic case.  So, in a sense, the whole field is dysfunctional.

Psychology/Psychiatry spends much time reassuring us that we are noble animals and should accept that high status.  When one is suffering from an obvious inability to function in life (mental issue), they want to know the etiology.  Since their theory of the goodness of man is not questioned, there must be an outside source causing the problem, therein the search begins.  The practitioners don’t deny a problem, they simply look for the external source of its origin.  When a genetic or organic source is eliminated, the only thing left is the blame game.  It’s the parents, traumatic experiences, faulty upbringing, or social systems that have caused this good person so many problems.  They are finding it increasingly easier to prescribe a Soma pill (Brave New World) rather than ferret out the cause.

The foregoing is a simplistic, and for some an unfair analysis of the many psychological/emotional problems faced by a myriad of people worldwide, and I don’t mean to make light of them.  There are certainly many traumatic experiences that can have a life long negative impact on a person’s well being and they need tending to.  The dilemma shared by the secular social system, is, if they ever were to admit that humans are basically flawed, they would have no solution for remedy.

The Bible has a different version, though.  The original creation of God was indeed good.  The Fall separated and infected all humans with a sin nature that must be cleansed and restored.  Jesus said we must be born again (John 3:3).  Not by the easy “believism” of saying a short prayer as some preachers promote, but by taking the exit off of the huge expressway onto to the narrow path that few find (Matt. 7:13,14).  But on that narrow path is the way to life, life of purpose now, and life eternal in the future.

But first comes repentance.  The first word Jesus said to begin His public ministry was “repent.”  Repentance of sins, yes, but the important ones are the realization that we have ignored God, blasphemed God, played God and lived lives of selfish endeavors focused on our desires.  The Holy Spirit reveals to us who we really are, and that is why the most beloved Christian song, Amazing Grace, contains the line, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  As far as God is concerned, our righteousness is as “filthy rags”(Isaiah 64:6).

How liberating to be able to admit that, but only when it is accompanied by the cleansing grace of God’s forgiveness and replaced with the righteousness of Christ.  Then we need no denial.  The love of God replaces any defense we have and we can know ourselves as we really are, and as God sees us, cleansed by the blood of Christ.  Now, how do we know others, well, they are the same as us.  They are in need of the same truth and not the world’s system of accepting our sinful selves, as we are, which we really sense is not right.  Augustine said it well; “our souls are restless, until they find their rest in Him.”  So, how do we best get to know self and others?  Know God, through our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.


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