“Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.” 1 Timothy 4:15 – 16
As we continue to work through what it means to live and work during a pandemic, I have chosen to listen to music from the 1960’s. It is on my radio and I get a little testy if you try to change the station. Normally, I don’t care what station my radio is on and typically, if there are others in the car with me, I let them set the station we listen to. I love most forms of music and enjoy pretty much whatever is selected with a few exceptions. But for now…it is music from the 60’s. It is a bit of an escape for me, I find the music comforting and the songs take me back to a simpler time. At least that is true for me since I was born in November of 1959 and in the sixties I was a kid and not overly exposed to the world stage of events that were happening from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights movement and the many marches on Washington, The Vietnam War and well there was a lot going on in the sixties.
When I think about it, if we take away the pandemic, the sixties seem a lot like today. Part of why learning history is so important. Knowing our history allows us to recognize patterns in our national character that are good and those that are bad. When we know what is not good within our cultural norms and have unfortunately become a part of our society, we can acknowledge them and get to work eliminating what is harmful to various demographics. It is also important to remember that societies are only as good as their weakest members. When they are hurting, we are all hurting to some extent.
Unfortunately, it seems we have not learned our history lessons as we continue to allow the evils of racism, sexism, poverty and other societal ills to permeate our culture. In fact, we get irate if someone tries to point out that we are not doing as well as we should on behalf of each person who lives in our country. Which means, we also aren’t doing a good job of being self-aware of who we are and how our actions impact the people around us as well as our overall society. Our self-awareness is important. Which seems to me what Paul is getting at in his letter to Timothy as he encourages him to keep a firm grasp of his character. It is vital we know who we are so we can be the person God needs us to be. In order to do that we need to develop our character and in order to develop our character, we need to be self-aware. And self-awareness means we know who we are as a person and what our personality is. Knowing both means we understand and work on the rough edges of who we are.
One of the songs I have listened to recently in my sixties music mania, was “I Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In.” It was written by Mickey Newbury and was a chart hit by “The First Edition” in 1968. It is a song about the LSD experience and why you should not use LSD as drugs were a major issue during the sixties. A lot like they are today. As I listened to the song, I began to think about the word “condition.” According to Dictionary.com, my go to dictionary…condition means “a particular mode of being of a person or thing.” That led me to think about self-awareness and how truly unaware we are about how we come across to other people. We have little to no self-awareness. We may think we are being helpful in our constant offering of suggestions…but if we took the time to read the other person’s body language, we would realize our constant offerings of suggestions are not being well received. We may think we are helping by offering “helpful criticism” when someone has made a mistake but all we are doing is crushing their spirits. We may think we are helping by being overly strict and dogmatic in how we apply the rules we adhere to but all we are doing is inhibiting self-expression. And of course, the list could go on and on about what “we” think about how “we” are doing. The thing is, what we think isn’t as important as what others are thinking about our actions. Getting feedback from a trusted friend on how we come across to others can be helpful.
And…just because we have “grown” into adulthood doesn’t mean we are done growing and learning. We can always be taught if we are open to learning more about ourselves and how we are seen by others. You might be surprised what you learn. I know when I took my Psychologicals as I worked to become a pastor, I was pleased first to discover I was of pretty sound mind. But I also learned I don’t always recognize when I am offering too much advice when I should be listening. So, I constantly work on that. Some days I do really well and some days not so much. The key is my own level of self-awareness. That changes depending on what is going on in my life and how overwhelmed I am in any given moment. Knowing this about myself, helps me as I work with others. Because the bottom line is: Our self-awareness about who we are and how we are being perceived is important in order to maintain healthy relationships.
Self-awareness is an important attribute in anyone and in any nation. Our nation as a whole is not very self-aware. I believe the only way we are going to change that is for each person to begin to become self-aware and as we the people become more self-aware, our nation will follow suit. Maybe a good place to start is by stopping all the name calling we are doing to anyone who disagrees with us about anything but especially as it pertains to politics.
For now, I hope we all choose to take some time to drop in on ourselves to see what condition our condition is in.