The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Self-Awareness

“How can I grow in self-awareness and help others do the same. So many of our conflicts would lessen if we would all grow in self-awareness.”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at InterfaithUnderstanding.org.

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at InterfaithUnderstanding.org.

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“This topic is very dear to my heart; but growing in self-awareness is not easy. What is easy is to avoid looking at our blind spots or pretending they’re not there. God made us and loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there. God will try to address those things that need to change in us and we can choose to open the doors of our heart or close them.

“When we allow God and others (who love us and in whom we trust) to speak into our lives, we are opening our hearts to correction and growing in self-awareness and that’s when change and growth happens. Psalm 138:6 states that God is close to the humble but the proud he keeps at a distance. I don’t want God to keep me at a distance. I want to live close to  Him. God is light and I want His light to fill me so much so that even my blind spots become visible. Therefore, my constant prayer is for God to help me see what I cannot see on my own and for His Spirit to give me the grace to change what needs to be changed.”

Linda Knieriemen, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Holland, responds:

“I would posit there are two primary ways to grow in self awareness. First, to reflect on what happens in one’s life. How one reacts in various situations, what elicits certain emotion or emotional/spiritual pain. Journalling at the end of the day can be helpful. So can the Jesuit practice  “Examen” whereby one looks back over the day past and considers questions such as for what am I grateful today? Where have I felt true joy? What has troubled me? What challenged me? Where have I sensed God’s presence today. And finally, “how might I enter tomorrow?

“One of my favorite Christian writers/theologians is Frederick Buechner. In Now and Then he writes this ‘Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.’

“A second way to grow in self-awareness is through silence, welcoming God into quietude and ‘hearing’ God in ones soul.”

The Rev. Steven W. Manskar, a retired United Methodist pastor, responds:

“As a Methodist, I am shaped by the teachings of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist movement. One of John Wesley’s published sermons helps answer this question: ‘And first, repent, that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith, even conviction, or self-knowledge. Awake, then. Know yourself to be a sinner… .’

“Repentance is the beginning of self-awareness, which is the first step toward holiness. It opens the mind and heart to the light of God that reveals the damage caused by sin. Repentance turns the heart and mind away from the self-deception of sin and towards the truth and life of God. Mindfulness begins when the heart and mind are turned away from self and turned towards God.

“Forming the habits needed to grow in self-awareness is meeting weekly with a small group of others who share the same desire. Such groups were integral to the growth of the early Methodist movement. In the weekly meetings each person gave an account of how their soul prospered since they last met. Their responses were shaped by how they followed Jesus’ teachings summarized by him in the Great Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” The group then prayed for each person and sang a hymn together.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“There are many ways to do this. One option is to begin the daily practice of meditation. This can help facilitate a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals, and our relationship with others. Keep in mind that meditation extricated from its spiritual foundation can do little in this regard. A recent study indicated that people who learn mindfulness meditation (which, while valuable to a degree, is completely secular) can exacerbate a sense of self-centeredness.  It doesn’t matter which religion one subscribes to, but focusing on a higher power and taking some time to silently affirm our role in the world can have a very positive impact.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The ancient philosopher, Socrates, taught that the unexamined life is not worth living. The first principle to living such a life as described above is to ‘know yourself.’

“The process of learning who you are and how you respond to situations is the beginning of growing in self-awareness. I confess I dislike surprises! Please know that when put into a ‘surprise’ situation that I may not respond favorably.

“In the above statement, you help others to grow by your example. One must first be honest with oneself. Then, in humility, share this with others. One’s actions then invite others to be vulnerable too.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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