On Self-Knowledge

First Point - There is nothing so important as self-knowledge; humility is the foundation of perfection, but self-knowledge is the foundation of humility. We are proud because we do not know ourselves. If we should have great knowledge of sciences, and have not self-knowledge, we know nothing. But if we should be ignorant of all things else, and have self-knowledge, we know a great deal. Of what advantage is it to know the causes and the effects of all that happens in the universe, if I do not know what is going on in my own heart? I am not charged with the government of the universe, but I am charged with the government of my own heart. Therefore I am obliged to observe all its emotions in order to regulate them. The knowledge of my own self leads directly toward the knowledge of God. I can not know myself without being convinced of my nothingness, my miseries, and my dependence on God; and I can not know these things without knowing the plentitude and sovereign domain of God, from which I can never escape. Let me know myself, O Lord, says Saint Augustine, in order that I may know Thee.

Second Point - We can not live long with any man without knowing him well. Yet how strange it is that we have lived so long with ourselves, and do not know ourselves. We make it one of our chief concerns to be ignorant of our own condition. This ignorance springs from our own negligence. Self-study is painful and we prefer to save ourselves this pain. Pride also contributes to this ignorance. Self-knowledge humiliates us; by entering into ourselves we discover our miseries and our weaknesses; we know that it is necessary to remove them, but, because it is too irksome, we prefer to be blind and proud rather than to be enlightened and humble.

Third Point - Our self-love is the ordinary cause of this ignorance; we love our miseries and our foibles. Yet if we enter into ourselves, if we examine all the emotions and disorders of the heart we can not but see the great deformity existing there. We needs must fear the consequences of this deformity, and take the proper means to remedy it. We must be very courageous and do great and continual violence to ourselves. Pride, self-love and sloth are our great obstacles. Thou alone, O Lord, canst fortify me against my weakness and my slothfulness. Let me behold my miseries in the same light as Thou dost behold them, so that I may be inspired with a holy horror of them. Deliver me from them, or rather leave to me those miseries that are not displeasing to Thee, and that serve to humble me; for no remedy is too severe for an evil so incurable as my pride.

Take the resolution to study yourself continually, and to prefer the knowledge of yourself to all other knowledge.

And indeed all things are vanity, every man living. - Psalm 38:6

Let me know myself, O Lord, in order that I may know Thee. - Saint Augustine of Hippo

- text taken from Meditations for Every Day in a Month, by Father Fran├žois Nepveu