"You do so much praying, why is it that you live the way you do?" is the central question posed by a seminary professor in his book Know Yourself, recently reviewed in the Catholic Times. It's a question for not only lay people but for those who devote their lives to prayer: priests and religious.
Living the life of faith without maturity, and other obstacles in our approach to God, can be explained in many ways.. However, if we look deeply we will see, the professor believes, that it usually involves a failure in knowing ourselves, causing unnecessary pain for others and ourselves. Knowing oneself and prayer are thought to be, unfortunately, two completely different approaches to life.
The priest emphasizes that being aware of who we are, especially in these days, is important to Christians. He wrote the book, he said, to remind us that if we are to love and experience God, it has to start with knowing ourselves.
He shows, by citing the Scriptures, that a life of prayer doesn't always result in worthwhile changes in our life. In getting to know ourselves, it's helpful to have small-group sharing and time set aside for meditation. The book goes over the traditional teaching of the Church on this subject and the various psychological methods of self-healing.
There are many zealous Christians who have a distorted opinion of themselves and suffer from a feeling of inferiority. Many have little self-respect and torment themselves and others for they are not in touch with their feelings.
Hindrances to our maturity, the professor says, can be eliminated once we are able to see some of the problems in our examination of self: probing the inner life; we will have come a great way in remedying the problem. Prayer and further meditation will then become more useful in helping us overcome the obstacles to growth.
Knowing ourselves we will come to understand the changes that normally take place in our spiritual life, and be better able to deal with the jealousy, envy and pain that come with ignoring our inner life. This can be overcome, he says, if we humbly acknowledge that we have been searching for our own wills and not the will of God.