The other day, I was talking with my friends. They were telling me about a History class they are enrolled in. Right now, they are studying the Greeks and they were discussing the aphorism “know thyself” that was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. To make the long story short, my friends concluded that hardly anybody lives this. Everybody is trying to be and project something they are not even if they are constantly quoting, “Be yourself everyone else is taken” or “Whatever you are, be a good one”.
“Know thyself”… I kept saying those words all afternoon. If this is what we are supposed to do than how do we start. Honesty burst out of my lips! If we truly want to know who we are, we have to begin with being honest.
Saint Thomas Aquinas said that we needed to be humble in order to achieve this, because humility will help us regulate the tendency we have to extol ourselves above our own reality. We cannot be honest if we deceive ourselves. The problem of trying to “know thyself” is that we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, as if what others do or are determine what we ought to be.
Suddenly, trying to apply this aphorism to my life seemed very difficult. Firstly we need to be humble to see ourselves as we truly are (honesty) and, secondly, we have to know what man is, what is his reality. Easy, right? Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us this answer, “the just measure of my reality as a man (or woman) comes not from my relationship with other men, but, above all, from my relationship with my Creator.”
After reading this explanation by Saint Thomas, I realized why dishonesty is so prevalent now in our society. We have left God behind. In order to truly “know thyself”, we have to never forget that we are a sons and daughters of God, this fact will make us want to know ourselves honestly, because whether we find good or bad we know God will always love us and help us be what we were created to be: holy. Then, with this knowledge, we will happily go and share our gifts and be a service to God and mankind, without extolling or devaluing ourselves. In other words, we would be living a truly honest life!
Is that it? Not exactly. I feel there is much more to being honest. Just read this definition of how and honest person acts: “clearly expresses, if convenient, to the appropriate person and in the correct moment, what he has done, what he has seen, what he thinks, what he feels, etc., concerning his personal situation and that of the other people.”
I will try to explain these words next time. For now, try to “know thyself”.