Brokenness & Worth

This article is adapted from an essay written for a course at Wesley Seminary.

Becoming more self-aware is both a powerful experience and also a painful one. It is a process of seeing our brokenness and finding our worth. In my journey to better understand myself, I have had both great epiphanies and challenging moments of reflection. I find it most difficult to understand who I am and trying to determine what to do about the insights I learn about myself. Throughout much of my adolescent years, my goal was to make people perceive me the way I wanted to be seen. Today, I still catch myself trying to develop a persona so that people will see me in a certain way.

There is great value in self-awareness because it helps us focus on being the people that God wants us to be. Gangel and Canine write:

“Perhaps the words ‘Know thyself’ first appeared on the temple wall at Delphi… in actuality this concept is far more ancient than the oracle at Delphi and comes from a much more reputable source. In Proverbs 23:7 we read, ‘For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he’ (KJV).”[1]

The idea of knowing ourselves is essential because it is a biblical concept. If we are building our lives on the foundational aspects of Godliness and being true to ourselves, we can live life to its fullest. Jesus reminds us of the essential nature of self-awareness because we have eternal consequence for our words:

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33–37, NRSV).

If a person lives a life full of darkness inside but poses to act like he or she is perfect on the outside, that person is not true to him or herself. We all possess sin and are in need of God’s transformation—true self-awareness starts with recognizing that we are not meant to live in the darkness. While we are justified and no longer held ontologically responsible for our sins, we are being transformed into the person God calls us to be and yet still have room for sin to be present. This means that we have a need to take ownership for our faults and ask forgiveness for them. To become more self-aware, we must recognize our shortcomings.

Equally essential to recognizing our brokenness, is also becoming aware of our worth. I have often struggled with low self-image and have found some solace in the words:

“I am a child of God, a person who God loves unconditionally. I will live and laugh, give and grow, in God’s love at savoring pace.”[2]

While we want to be careful to avoid a narcissist image that modern culture pulls us toward, we also need to remember our identity in Christ. John reminds us:

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Before beginning any process of self-discovery, it is essential to put our focus on our Creator. I have often taken self-evaluations without properly taking the time to pray, read Scripture, and seek after God’s heart. As I think about my experience, I recognize how essential this step would have been because all of these assessment tools are human-made. I am reminded of a prayer that I occasionally read based on Isaiah 26:3 & 30:15 from the Book of Common Prayer:

“O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength.”[3]

The process of self-awareness begins with using tools to help us achieve a better understanding of our identity. Some tools I have found to be helpful include: Myers-Briggs, Fivefold Ministry, Sacred Pathways, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Enneagram, and the DISC profile. However, these tools are only suggestions in trying to understand who we are. I have had to be careful to not use some of these assessments as justifications for my shortcomings. However, Christ calls us to rise above our human nature and follow him. We have to be careful not to let secular psychological assessments determine who are going to be.

A significant part of self-awareness is letting it lead us to transformation. This is not about changing by our efforts, but it means setting our minds on Christ. Trying to accomplish transformation on our own is just as unhelpful as trying to undergo self-discovery on our own. James Bryan Smith writes:

“As Christ-followers we are called to ‘set [our] minds on things that are above’ (Colossians 3:2). Most of all, we are called to have the very mind of Jesus: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). Adopting Jesus’ narratives is a way we come to have the mind of Christ. Once we get the right narratives in place, change will begin.”[4]

An important step in the process of self-awareness is to have a few people in our lives who can help us. We can be incredibly unaware of ourselves until someone helps us see some of the areas in our life we need to celebrate or find growth. It is equally important for this person to be someone who is acknowledging both the good and the bad because if it is just one of these categories, we can develop an unhealthy and unrealistic image of ourselves.

The pursuit of self-awareness is a journey that we will undergo for the duration of our lives. We have to be faithful with the experiences we encounter and the exposure to self-awareness we have. I am always learning something new about myself—in these moments I have the opportunity to either use that knowledge to be more like Christ or ignore the lessons being learned. Recognizing our brokenness and embracing our worth help us to be the person God has created us to be.

[1] Kenneth O. Gangel and Samuel L. Canine, Communication and conflict management in churches and Christian organizations (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002), 61.
[2] Kirk Byron Jones, Addicted to hurry: spiritual strategies for slowing down (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2003), 92.
[3] The book of common prayer: and administration of the sacraments and other rites and cermonies of the Church, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David (New York: Church Pub., 2007), 138.
[4] James Bryan Smith, The good and beautiful God: falling in love with the God Jesus knows (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011), 26.

Quince tree. Ca. 30-20 BC. National Museum of Rome, House of Livia Mural. Photo by Ian Scott. May 22, 2010. Accessed March 6, 2017.

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