"Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee." St. Augustine
Much is said in the church about knowing God. Yet Christians throughout the ages have agreed that there cannot be deep knowledge of God without deep knowledge of the self. Just like you cannot truly love God without truly coming to love yourself and others, knowing yourself is inextricably linked to knowing God. Paradoxically, the more you become like Christ and the more you become authentically yourself.
Pope Francis mentioned Thomas Merton last week in his address to Congress. One of the topics Merton is best known for is the way he makes clear the difference between the false self and the true self. He exposes the false selves that we may hide behind and calls us to discover the true self that emerges from our uniqueness in Christ. When we are free from illusions about ourselves, our emerging self-understanding leads to the fulfillment of our God-given purpose in life.
Christian spirituality involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known. The self is not God, but it is the place where we meet God. Genuine self-knowledge revitalizes our spiritual life and opens the door to becoming who God has created us to be. Rest assured, no one needs to keep trying to be someone they are not. But we will all deepen our experience of God through discovering the gift of being ourselves.