Carmelite Musings

By Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.

It is likely that many of us think we know ourselves pretty well. And why not? We live in our own skins, don’t we? We know our likes and dislikes, we value our own thoughts, opinions and insights, we like the way we see the world and think our way is usually the right way.

Then, there comes a point in time, hopefully many points, where you come face-to-face with the realization that you don’t actually know yourself as well as you thought you did. We surprise ourselves by our unexpectedly strong reactions to people and circumstances. We can become defensive when something we thought was “right” is, in fact, “wrong”. Our world becomes a little topsy turvy because we thought we were kind, patient, and understanding, and someone reflects to us that we’re impatient, short-tempered, and irritable. Though it may not feel like it, these moments are indeed a blessing in disguise. It reveals to us how limited and narrow we are in how we see ourselves.

Let’s be honest here. Moments like this certainly don’t feel like blessings, and I’m sure many of us would not categorize it amid our shining, positive life experiences. Yet, if we go underneath the surface, that’s exactly what it is. These are the moments where we truly grow…grow as an individual…grow in our self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge comes to us in many forms. One of the best, tried-and-true ways is often through the feedback of those who work closely with us and/or live with us. If we move through life trusting solely in ourselves and our own life experiences and perceptions, our world stops expanding.

We can choose to live within these limited, confining boundaries, or we can choose to have our horizons be limitless. When others break through our narrowness with their own insights and feedback, if we accept and receive it, we allow ourselves to grow in ways that we couldn’t have ever achieved on our own. We’re continually stretched, which then allows for more flexibility, openness, fullness. It creates more space. Our horizons really become limitless because we’re recognizing that the whole wide world out there has something to contribute to our personal growth. To see it from this perspective makes us wonder why we so regularly try to protect ourselves from any outside feedback. I guess the options to consider would then be whether or not we want to live life “safely” and in a measured way or if we want to embrace all that life and God have to offer. It’s your choice.