Self-awareness: the greatest gift by Stewart Perry

Tomorrow I’ve been asked to present to the 13 Ordination Candidates in the diocese on a couple of my favourite topics which I’m looking forward to. I’ve got 2 sessions of an hour and a half each. At the beginning of the 1st session I’m going to spend about 10 minutes talking about… myself. I’m pretty sure that I don’t know anyone in the group, apart from 1 person but it’s not about them getting to know who I am or to impress them with my history (it’s really not that impressive).

The reason I want to share some key points in my journey is to help them understand that who we are and what we’ve been through has a direct impact on how we relate to others and particularly how we show and share God’s love. It’s either going to be conscious or sub-conscious… I just think it’s way better for everyone concerned if it’s conscious.

I strongly believe that self-awareness is perhaps the greatest gift you can give another person.

I won’t profess to be the world’s most self-aware person, but it is something that I’ve tried to attend to throughout my life. It’s an ongoing process because everyone changes… all the time. As the world changes, our environment changes, the people around us change we respond and we change. As I was reading through some of my old writing in preparation for the weekend I came across this great quote: ‘to stay the same while everything around you is changing is not to stay the same’.

When I was in my early 20s I did a personality typing test which has a spiritual focus and comes from a Jesuit background called the Enneagram. It’s become quite popular amongst church circles in recent years but I did it before it was cool. I am a fan of these types of tools, not because they are magically insightful, but they can be used as great self-awareness. I remember hearing back my results and thinking to myself… “Oh no I’m just like my mum… but not in a good way”. What I love about the Enneagram is that it talks about redeemed and unredeemed qualities. In becoming aware of who we are we have an ability to use that part of our personality for good which in and of itself is change.

As Christians we believe we have been chosen and formed by God and that the Holy Spirit will reveal and use our giftedness for the benefit of others. In that sense I do believe that self-awareness is a work of the Holy Spirt.

As much as self-awareness can be a gift, I have seen on many occasions how a lack of self-awareness can be weaponised. I was in a meeting this week where a person, through their lack of awareness and insistence of making themselves heard, apart from not hearing the other points of view in the meeting actually said some things that were quite hurtful and insensitive to others in the group. Now I don’t believe this person (who wasn’t from our church by the way) was malicious in any way, but their lack of self-awareness did not, in my view, leave me feeling that this person was caring of the others in the room.

As Christians I hope that our desire would be that as we leave people will know they have been both noticed and cared for. Self-awareness is critical for this to be possible.

How do we become more self-aware? Well you could do the Enneagram or similar, you could use the many examples of self-reflection we find throughout the history of the church, particularly in the monastic tradition, you can go for a walk at the end of the day and reflect on your day or a part of your life’s journey, you can spend some time with the people you trust and who know you best and ask for some honest feedback about how you are perceived and give them permission to “call you out” when you’re not being self-aware, you could pray that the Holy Spirit would give you the gift of self-awareness. The list could keep going, I think it’s important that we just pursue self-awareness as one of our ongoing goals in life.

Self-awareness in a Christian context is not so we can be the best we can be or live our “best lives”… it is for the benefit of others so that we can be truly present with them and that God would help us to help them feel noticed and cared for.

Have a great week.