In the Dialogues of Plato, we read, “For self-knowledge would certainly be maintained by me to be the very essence of knowledge, and in this I agree with him who dedicated the inscription ‘Know Thyself!’ at Delphi.”
What does it take to know your self? It is to see and realize your insecurities, fears, biases, hurts, wounds, addictions – and dreams or hopes too – as they really are. For these are the things about your self that have the potential to distort the clarity of your mind, feelings, or motive. Especially so, when life-changing choices and judgments are to be made.
Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote, “Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom involves the management of knowledge, which in turn involves comprehension of the significance of the knowledge possessed. Wisdom is knowledge put to use by judgment.” As T.S. Eliot expressed in his pageant play, “The Rock:” “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
Of all the knowledge upon which wisdom needs to be based, the most difficult to face is self-knowledge. We have trouble with self-knowledge because it’s frequently bad news! Yet bad news or not, each one of us have no choice but to deal with it if we are to avoid destroying our selves. In the lives of so many of us though, self-knowledge remains elusive because we try so hard to avoid it.
I’m reminded of a serial sex addict with multiple infidelities telling me and his girlfriend during our session, “I know my self. I know I can recover from this by myself.” Like him, we are all capable of fooling ourselves at our own peril. The self-knowledge we claim to possess may actually be self-delusion behind which we hide. The slightest acknowledgment of truth, seeing what really is, can be the beginning of self-knowledge well worth pursuing.