If our “false self”—the self driven by sin and by a false identity—is sometimes our greatest obstacle on our discernment journey, our “true self” is one of our greatest allies in our discernment journey.
The closer we grow to Christ, the more we start to see the world, others, and ourselves, with the eyes of Christ. What is our true identity? As discussed earlier, we find our true identity in God. Two ways to come to a truer sense of ourselves immediately stand out: Seek self-knowledge and learn to see ourselves through God’s eyes.
1. Seek self-knowledge
Getting to know ourselves—without false vanity, without the shadow of sin—is true humility. Self-knowledge is often marred by two opposite tendencies—sometimes simultaneously. Either 1) we ignore our faults altogether and become prideful, attributing our gifts to ourselves rather than God, or 2) we fall into the slump of seeing ourselves too negatively, only seeing our faults and limitations.
Genuine self-knowledge comes through prayer, living reflectively (especially through the examen), and openness to discovering the truth about ourselves.
Humility is knowing ourselves as graced and weak, blessed and sinful. If we can become comfortable in this truth about ourselves, then we are much less likely to get in our own way on our discernment journey. Humility can be uncomfortable, especially when our illusory image of ourselves as overly powerful and in control is shattered. In these moments, it can be helpful to cling to God’s love, in which we can find the true anchor of our identity. Isaiah 43:4 is a great reminder: “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”
We can pray for self-knowledge to the Holy Spirit, asking especially for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine offers a prayer for self-knowledge: “Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known” (Confessions, Book X). The following Petitions of Saint Augustine is a beautiful and powerful prayer that is helpful to pray regularly. I’ve adapted it slightly for today’s usage.
LORD JESUS, may I know myself and know You, and desire nothing else but You.
May I hate my [false] self and love You.
May I do everything for the sake of You.
May I humble myself and exalt You.
May I think of nothing except You.
May I die to myself and live in You.
May I receive whatever happens as from You.
May I banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
May I fly from myself and fly to You, that I may deserve to be defended by You.
May I fear for myself and [be in awe of] You, and be among those who are chosen by You.
May I distrust myself and trust in You.
May I be willing to obey on account of You.
May I cling to nothing but to You.
May I be poor for the sake of You.
Look upon me that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and ever and ever enjoy You. Amen.