What do you know and what can you do?

One of the lost virtues for modern man is art. In a previous, post I argued that know-how is crucial for man’s happiness. This is not just a claim made by ancient philosophers (which would make it worth entertaining anyway), but studies have demonstrated today that having beliefs about personal abilities improve one’s subjective sense of well-being.[1] Based on the fact that art is a virtue and virtue leads to happiness, I suspect that what follows will be helpful.

The Skill Stack

In his entertaining book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams puts forward two things:

  1. The moist robot hypothesis: we’re basically moist robots and therefore we can reprogram ourselves.
  2. The idea of a skill set/stack: a set of skills that exponentially grows your opportunities for success.[2]

This intrigued me. I like learning new things and one of the best compliments I’d ever received was, “He’s a machine.”

Scott recommends his own skill set and explains how to attain those skills in his book. I’ll leave that to him to teach you. But I want to reflect further on the idea.

The most famous meeting in literature: Holmes and Watson, led to this assessment of Holmes’ skills by his near genius companion:

  1. Knowledge of Literature – nil.[3]
  2. Knowledge of Philosophy – nil.
  3. Knowledge of Astronomy – nil.
  4. Knowledge of Politics – Feeble.
  5. Knowledge of Botany – Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
  6. Knowledge of Geology – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks, has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
  7. Knowledge of Chemistry – Profound.
  8. Knowledge of Anatomy – Accurate, but unsystematic.
  9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature – Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
  10. Plays the violin well.
  11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman.
  12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

After making this list, Watson mused:

When I had got so far in my list I threw it into the fire in despair. “If I can only find what the fellow is driving at by reconciling all these accomplishments, and discovering a calling which needs them all,” I said to myself, “I may as well give up the attempt at once.”[4]

Your Skills

Adams’ concept of a skill set (which everybody knows about, but he rather hypnotically combined it with the robot hypothesis and some knowingly bogus math), is fun to use here.

If you asked yourself these two questions, what would the result be?

  1. If I had a roommate who found my habits bizarre, what would the list of skills I possess be?
  2. If I had my dream career, what would that list of skills be?

If you want, take the time to write this down.

Observe the difference between these two lists.

Now for another couple of questions:

  1. If I looked unbiasedly at my skills (not degrees, previous jobs, or recommendations), how successful and happy do I think I would be?
  2. What do I think my job, the state of my home, and my level of social intrigue would be?

Personally, I think I would be a software developer or a teacher. I do both of these things, they both make me happy. Not sure what other people would deduce from my skill set.

Conclusion

If you aren’t as happy as you want to be, could it be that you have very little in the way of persistent success and skill? And remember, art is a virtue. One can be a terrible person and be very skilled at things. But one cannot be a good person while being dullard with respect to gaining skill.[5] The virtues go together, to be slack in one is, eventually, to be slack in all.

References

[1] Mariatumasjan Andranikspörrle, Matthias Strobel, “Be Yourself, Believe in Yourself, and Be Happy: Self-Efficacy as a Mediator between Personality Factors and Subjective Well-Being,” Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 52, no. 1 (February 2011): 43–48 and Deborah M. Flynn and Stephanie Macleod, “Determinants of Happiness in Undergraduate University Students,” College Student Journal 49, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 452.

[2] Adams, Scott (2013-10-22). How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (p. 96). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, “When I speak to young people on the topic of success, as I often do, I tell them there’s a formula for it. You can manipulate your odds of success by how you choose to fill out the variables in the formula. The formula, roughly speaking, is that every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success.”

[3] Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, 16-17

[4] Ibid.

[5] If one finds this offensive think it through. Let’s say you become slack at work because parenting exhausts you and you get fired and now cannot care for your children. This sucks, but doing poor work on another’s time clock is rude or unjust. Similarly, let’s say you stay static at work because parenting exhausts you. You’re probably (hopefully) gaining skill as a parent. Therefore, you are growing in the virtue that pertains to parenting.

Scott Adams on Marriage

Introduction

One of my favorite blogs lately has been blog.dilbert.com. Adams is funny, he’s an ideas guy, and he uses systems instead of goals to set himself up for success. His system, with his blog, is to market his books with provocative explanations of persuasion from a hypnotism point of view, get feed back based on comments, and then repeat with further explanations that demonstrate his own rhetorical capacity by performing the very rhetorical techniques he is describing.

But that’s not all. His system gains a larger audience that he then uses to bounce more provocative ideas, but these ideas are seemingly meant to actually improve civilization. He’s written about gun safety, diet, and in this case marriage. In his book on failure he catalogs the dozens of big ideas he’s pursued until their death.

I highly recommend that you read his post on marriage: here.

To summarize:

Marriage is the worst thing that has ever happened to civilization. This is because:

  1. It leads to poverty.
  2. It leads to malnutrition.
  3. It leads to obesity (lack of exercise).
  4. It leads to terrorism(!).
  5. It leads to emotional fatigue.
  6. It’s bad for children in the context of schooling.
  7. It usually ends in divorce.

He close with this note:

The tell for cognitive dissonance in the comments and on Twitter will be the oversized anger followed by an insult of the author’s intelligence. People who object for real reasons will mention them. Also look for “Wow” and other dismissive responses without reasons.

My Thoughts

  1. Evidence that Scott would permit:
    1. Numerically, if marriage were pursued on a monogamous basis, terrorism would not be seen as a result.
    2. Marriage can work like a master mind, two people working together ot pursue the goals of the household that could range from the production of children, the lifting up of society around them, religious ends, the running of a beneficial business, etc.
    3. Many species are monogamous. If we are evolved, probably, by natural selection for this purpose, it may help us be happy and successful if done well.
    4. Promiscuity leads to a load of ills and is especially deleterious to women. Watch this video by Stefan Molyneaux. He has no religious agenda, he’s an atheist.
    5. The public school system is simply terrible. It is feasible that it simply cannot be repaired, even by a marriageless civilization.
    6. A promiscuous (marriage-less) society would likely lead to men checking out of fatherhood unless every child were tested for paternity. Men are far less likely to be interetested in raising a child whose paternity they are suspicious of. This is based on what we see in modern relationships.
  2. Evidence that Scott would not permit:
    1. The biblical ideal is happy monogamous marriage. Many people dispute this, but in the New Testament the one partner only exchange of sex and bonding into “one flesh” meaning one life, is clear. If we buy into the idea that revelation is progressive, then the New Testament ideal is normative.
    2. The natural law argument for marriage based on the final cause of human sexuality seems, to me, to be conclusive.

Conclusion

I think I’ve met Scott’s standards for avoiding cognitive dissonance.

I’m not sure what he thinks.

Scott Adams and the Six Filters For Truth

Scott Adams wrote an excellent book called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It’s an atypical book in the personal development/self-help genre because it covers such a tremendous range of topics.

I really appreciated a little list of truth filters that are meant to help readers discern between fact and fiction:

“The Six Filters for Truth[1]

  1. Personal experience (Human perceptions are iffy.)
  2. Experience of people you know (Even more unreliable.)
  3. Experts (They work for money, not truth.)
  4. Scientific studies (Correlation is not causation.)
  5. Common sense (A good way to be mistaken with complete confidence.)
  6. Pattern recognition (Patterns, coincidence, and personal bias look alike.)”

This is shorter than the common topics list for research, writing, and arguing.

Nevertheless, the filter is useful.

Observe Adams’ skepticism regarding the ability of any of these items to give you an absolute insight into reality.

I only partially agree with him. I think that our cognitive faculties are limited, but that we can know truths.

I think the missing piece here is logic. Adams observes that from a rhetorical standpoint, logic/reason is practically worthless.

But it can yield truth. We know this from Geometry, mathematics, and the invention of technologies, and advancements in medical treatment with observable results.

Anyway, a reasoned application of these filters might help you avoid being fooled in life.

[1] Adams, Scott (2013-10-22). How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

Put Yourself First?

In Scott Adams great little book, How to Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, he says that putting yourself first is crucial for being able to help other people:

“In hard times, or even presuccess times, society and at least one cartoonist want you to take care of yourself first. If you pursue your selfish objectives, and you do it well, someday your focus will turn outward. It’s an extraordinary feeling. I hope you can experience it.” Adams, Scott (2013-10-22). How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (p. 50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For many Christians, this kind of talk sounds verboten. At first glance it appears to contradict several data points in Scripture:

  1. God’s testimonies are opposed to selfishness. (Psalm 119:36)
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Levitivus 19:18).
  3. Put the interests of others above your own (Philippians 2:3-4)
  4. Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4 and Mark 12:30).
  5. Selfishness leads to disorder. (James 3:16)

Now, the kind of selfishness the Bible is against appears to be a sort of self-interest that opposes humility before God, the pursuit of the common good, or the acknowledgment of the importance of others and their needs. In other words, it is living a purely self-directed life. For instance, John Gill’s comments on Philippians 2:4 are:

Not but that a man should take care of his worldly affairs, and look well unto them, and provide things honest in the sight of all men, for himself and his family, otherwise he would be worse than an infidel; but he is not to seek his own private advantage, and prefer it to a public good; accordingly the Syriac version reads it, “neither let anyone be careful of himself, but also everyone of his neighbour”; and the Arabic version thus, “and let none of you look to that which conduces to himself alone, but let everyone of you look to those things which may conduce to his friend”; but this respects spiritual things, and spiritual gifts: a Christian should not seek his own honour and applause, and to have his own will, and a point in a church carried his own way, but should consult the honour of Christ, the good of others, and the peace of the church; he should not look upon his own gifts, he may look upon them, and ascribe them to the grace of God, and make use of them to his glory, but not to admire them, or himself for them, and pride himself in them, and lift up himself above others, neglecting and taking no notice of the superior abilities of others

But, if we were to read Scott’s word “selfish” to mean “self-interested,” then I think the playing field changes. The Bible teaches self-interest and indeed condemns selfishness in the name of self-interest:

  1. Getting wisdom is only guaranteed to benefit yourself in the end. (Proverbs 9:12)
  2. Getting wisdom is showing love to your soul. You’re commanded to be wise, so you’re commanded to love your soul. (Proverbs 19:8)
  3. Proverbs challenges us to be good at our jobs. (Proverbs 22:29)
  4. Jesus appeals to our sense of self preservation to tell us not to be financially selfish or obsessed with riches. (Matthew 16:26)

So, is there a sense in which Christians should care for their own needs and desires first? I think that the answer is yes. For instance, if somebody evangelizes all the time without first repenting and believing the gospel, they may find themselves in the position of those Jesus never knew in the first place in Matthew 7. Similarly, one who has no savings account can have no money for mercy. One who knows not, in depth, the Bible, cannot live to benefit others in a way befitting to the words therein, and so-on.

On the other hand, is selfishness, as I defined it above, evil? Yes.

Growth in Grace: The Feelings

Introduction

To grow in grace must include a transformation of our feelings and emotions. This is evident from two perspectives. From observation, we know that part of a long term diet plan includes learning to like different foods. If this change does not take place, then evidence shows that people have a tendency to end up heavier than they were before going on a diet. From Scripture, we see that the ideal Christian life includes the experience of appropriate positive emotions regarding God, truth, goodness, and beauty and negative emotions with regard to evil, sin, suffering, and so-on.[1]

The topic of emotional growth and transformation in the life of God’s grace is dangerous, though. It’s dangerous territory because emotions are pathologized in many ways. In this post, I do not mean to:

  1. Conflict with some actual medical diagnosis somebody may have. A genetic predisposition toward depress or a measured chemical imbalance is not to be scoffed at or treated as fake.
  2. Allow people who (without medical diagnosis) to merely treat their feelings as a matter purely of personality that cannot be dealt with because of some personality test continue to live with a self-destructive God dishonoring approach to emotions.

But, despite the dangers of discussing feelings and emotions, this is an important topic. Besides, a life boat is a dangerous on the high seas, but it is better than sinking with a damaged vessel. Similarly, a Christian approach to our feelings is much safer than simply staying upon a sinking vessel in those same high seas.

Four Theses on Feelings

  1. Human beings often make major decisions based solely upon their feelings.
    This is almost an axiom, but if you need evidence use social media.
  2. This state of affairs, which is often treated as virtuous in movies, music, literature, and television shows, is not ideal.
    Many people think that going against their feelings is inauthentic. I’ve even heard famous pastors define hypocrisy as obeying the Lord when you don’t feel like it. The Star Wars films use the phrase, “search your feelings” over and over as a call to seek higher knowledge than sense or reason can provide. But, one can see how impulses and feelings lead us astray on a regular basis. For instance, many sweet foods are over eaten and this leads to health problems on a national scale. Similarly, the sexual impulse of humanity misapprehended leads to children growing up in terrible and broken households.
  3. The Biblical picture is that feelings are a good gift from God that have been distorted by sin.
    In Romans 1:18-32, Paul says that God gives idolators (the human race) over to debased minds and shameful lusts as a punishment. In 1 Peter 2:12, Peter observes that our passions actually wage war against our souls. On the other hand, the Bible often uses positive emotions as motivations for living the good life with God. One need only read Proverbs 1-9 to see how frequently pleasant emotions are associated with growing in wisdom, maturity, and godliness.
  4. With our cultural acceptance of feeling as a prime source for authentic living (if it feels good, do it!), Christians must re-examine and re-accept the Biblical picture of human feelings and their place in being disciples of Jesus Christ.
    If the first three theses are true, then this one is a matter of course. A non-ideal state of affairs based on a false belief should always be changed.

3 Myths about feelings

  1. Self-control means to directly go against your emotions all of the time.
    Some people caricature stoicism and think that self-control is bad because it means going against emotions or ignoring them entirely. Very few people put this in writing. This is more of an awkward conversation that occurs with people who are about to make a bad decision based on emotion. We’ve all been there, so we might as well refute it here. Self-control, Biblically, is having a mastery over your feelings in such a way as to lead you to crucify evil ones and to willingly engage in God honoring ones (Galatians 5:22-24).
  2. On the other hand, it is a myth that to go against your feelings to do the right thing is bad.[2]
    For instance, John Piper says that buying your wife flowers because you feel obligated isn’t actually love, therefore similarly obeying God out of duty is also not love. This is an interesting point and is very helpful form a certain point of view, but if it is over focused on, it can really confuse us. Paul says that we are under obligation, just not to the flesh in Romans 8:12. The implication, of course, is that we are under obligation to the Holy Spirit. Now, where Piper is right is that our duty is to delight in God. But it is also our duty to act loving when we feel disinterested, hateful, or angry with somebody (God included).
  3. All feelings are true/All feelings are false
    Some people treat their feelings as a totally accurate source of data. Other people treat them as routinely unreliable. An important step is to learn to treat your feelings as an important part of who you are and just like your thoughts and beliefs, they can be right or wrong.

Developing Grace Shaped Feelings

Dallas Willard, in Renovation of the Heart, offers excellent tools for experiencing the transformation of the feelings. What I say below will be partially adapted from his work as well as a collection of some of my own thoughts on the process.

  1. Have a vision of yourself transformed
    Previously, I wrote about the power of having a Christ-formed vision of who you are meant to be. This is true of the feelings as well. Few people can overcome their desire for an unhealthy diet because they refuse to imagine themselves as somebody who really doesn’t want the first bite of cake in the first place or at least as somebody who thoroughly enjoys a small piece and moves on with their life. Dallas Willard puts it this way, “If a strong and compelling vision of myself of one who is simply free from intense vanity or desire of wealth or for sexual indulgence can possess me, then I am in a position to desire not to have the desires I now have. And then means can be effectively sought for that end.”[3]
  2. Reason with your emotions
    Many of us believe that our feelings are deeps sources of knowledge about reality. This is why we really belief that they must be satisfied. This can be true of sadness, anger, lust, hunger, and so-on. Part of dealing with these feelings is reasoning with them. “Will I really just die if I go for a walk instead of look at porn?” “Is it realistic to think that I must win this argument with my wife?” “Did my child really try to make me angry?” “Am I literally worthless?” If we ask these questions of our feelings and then dispute them, we may find ourselves slowly having transformed feelings. I’ve written more about this here and here.
  3. Learn the circumstances under which you experience your emotions and change them
    I mean two things here. The first is to recognize the bad external circumstances over which you have power, and change them. If you need more sleep, start going to bed early tonight. If you watch depressing or violent crap on television, stop. If you read salacious literature, don’t. If you watch the food network and feel hungry all the time, stop watching it.
    There are also internal conditions of feelings. These can be beliefs and thought patterns. If you really believe that you are worthless, then you really will feel like a worthless worm of a person. So, repeat true, Biblical statements to yourself until your belief is changed. “I am in loved by God.” “I am made in God’s image.” “God is worth giving up my immediate desires.” “Self-denial for the sake of Jesus is good.” Other beliefs or processes can be important as well. I have several circumstances that opposed my life success that everybody I know says were the fault of others who took advantage of my niceness and problem solving ability. If I live my whole life thinking about how so-and-so messed me up, I will live my whole life weakening my resolve. So, I’ve chosen to believe that I am fully responsible for those failures and what comes next. This belief is only partly true, but I don’t know enough about those other people’s intentions to really believe that meant to take advantage of me. But I do know that I simply did not have a biblical form of self-love and put others interests before my own in an unbiblical fashion.[4] Learning to change this past belief to one of personal ownership of the result has helped me have way more peace about my current circumstances and to feel must more ownership over my course in life.
  4. Don’t repress your feelings, but change them (in the ways mentioned above) or use them constructively
    Many people, as I mentioned above, see self-control as an inauthentic attempt to repress or hide all feelings. While there are times to hide your feelings, repression is not the best way to have your feelings transformed. There is a time to ‘fake it’ till you make it. If you feel hungry, but don’t eat to train yourself to keep your new diet, that is probably good. But you have to own the fact that you felt hungry despite having eaten enough. If you do not own your feelings as an actual part of who you are (they aren’t all you are, btw), then it can be hard to change them over time. I’ve written about this in more depth here. Another way to approach this is to take potentially sinful feelings and use them to seek the good thing they were designed to point you toward. Examples:

    1. Anger: Anger is meant to tell you where your will is being thwarted. If you’re angry about something you currently cannot solve, go solve another problem.
    2. Lust: Use feelings of lust to motivate yourself to improve your marriageability, attractiveness, or current marriage.
    3. Sadness: Sadness comes from a sense of loss or demoralizing defeat. Use sadness to propel you to empathy with others or to motivate you to improve your chances of overcoming your circumstances. You could also use it to guide you toward repentance. Remind yourself that this feeling is the feeling that should accompany sin.

Conclusion

The point of this post is to give clear instruction on the ways in which our feelings can be transformed according to Christlikeness. The three biggest challenges for this are:

  1. The belief that feelings are primary for knowing and deciding in life.
  2. Our lack of vision about the Biblical picture of feelings formed in Christ (read the New Testament and Proverbs very thoroughly to solve this)
  3. Our inability to admit that our feelings are often the result of choices we make that are sinful at worst and foolish at best.

If we can get these things straight, then we can hopefully chart a clearer course through this aspect of growing in God’s grace. May his Spirit help us.

Posts in the series

  1. What does “grow in grace” mean?
  2. Growth in Grace: Vision
  3. Growth in Grace: Intention
  4. Growth in Grace: Means
  5. Growth in Grace: The Feelings

References

[1] For instance, Paul commands us to “abhor the evil” but also says that God’s spirit will work “joy” in our lives. And while I am quite opposed to the idea that love is an emotion, love is often accompanied by delight. Our sense of delight in those we choose to love (rather than only gravitating toward loving those in whom we delight) is an important sign of spiritual growth.

[2] John Piper, Desiring God ([Sisters, OR]: Multnomah, 2003), 93, “Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary. Mine is on December 21. Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed roses for Noël. When she meets me at the door, I hold out the roses, and she says, “O Johnny, they’re beautiful; thank you” and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.” What happens? Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing? Do not we honor those we dutifully serve? Not much. Not if there’s no heart in it. Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person, the roses do not honor her. In fact, they belittle her. They are a very thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth or beauty in my eyes to kindle affection. All I can muster is a calculated expression of marital duty.”

[3] Willard 119.

[4] Paul, in Philippians 2:1-11, teaches us to emulate Christ in putting others interests above our own. And we should, but insofar as the interests of the other involve the purposes of the gospel. For instance, Paul won’t put others interests above his own when it comes to his calling or responsibilities. Same with Jesus. Jesus tells would be apostles (people who want to go preach with him) that they can’t come because they want him to wait for their needs to be met first. This is important to remember. If somebody’s need involves you failing to feed your family, pursue your calling, or whatever then think very carefully about whether or not it is wise to do. For instance, in the parable of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan didn’t invite the guy into his home or offer to pay all of his bills. But he did help him in the moment and agree to pay for his care at an inn.

Self-Deception, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Denial

In Luther’s 95 theses, he observes, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

I think that Luther is correct here. For instance, in Romans 12:2, Paul summarizes the Christian life as being “transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Luther’s thought is that the entire Christian life is looking to God’s revelation in Christ, looking to ourselves as sinful and in need of grace and mercy, and transforming our minds on the basis of that revelation.

With this in mind, I wish to look at true self-knowledge and self-deception.

Self Deception

Coming to know ourselves in a true way is central to the Christian life. It is also central to becoming successful in other endeavors as well. The problem with coming to this knowledge is a frequent failure to consciously admit what we really know to be true. This is a form of self-deception.

For instance, one of my legs is shorter than the other. As I’ve gotten stronger in the gym this leg geometry issue has become uncomfortable.

For years I just thought, “Well, it’s not that bad. In fact, I can totally deal with it.” But in reality the different is significant enough that affects my posture and contributes to some sharp pain in a small area in my lower back.

I finally admitted that I have this problem and went to a cobbler and got some hard crepe added to my squat and dead lifting shoes.

My back is slowly getting used to having even hips in the squat. I’m not as strong as I was despite being functionally “healed” by my change of mind on the matter. But I’m slowly building back up and squats and deadlift no longer make my hip joints feel weird or bad.

With respect to spiritual growth, similar failures to acknowledge the actual state of our souls can cripple us as we grow in other areas. Similarly, admitting the truth about ourselves, “I really am a wrathful/lustful/arrogant/murderous/selfish/failing/fooling person…” can feel like a major regress. But living with frequent failures and near misses with respect to our most embarrassing or incriminating impulses and then covering them with phrases like, “I blew it” or “God is strong in my weakness” is a copout if we think of repentance as the whole of the Christian life. Repentance involves, as I mentioned above, comparing ourselves to the revelation of God in Christ.

Self Knowledge

So, coming to self-knowledge has benefits. But it is difficult just like coming to true knowledge of this or that field of study.

In the case of my leg-length discrepancy, I had to actually become weaker temporarily to train my body safely. A similar problem could come to somebody who finally owns the fact that they are greedy and in significant debt. The art of living justly and graciously with regard to finances might require that they become way less generous until they pay of their debts (because giving money away that you owe to somebody else is certainly not Christlike or good).

Because self-knowledge can be so difficult or even painful, we have tremendous incentive not to gain it. This reticence may even lead us to not even have a system in place to gain self-knowledge.  Thankfully, the Bible and plain reason give us several methods to gain self-knowledge:

  1. Admit that your wisdom is apt to be flawed[1]
    1Co 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
    1Co 8:2  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
  2. Compare Your Life to Scripture’s Moral Ideals
    Jas 1:23-25 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  (24)  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  (25)  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
  1. Accept Criticism
    Pro 10:17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
    Pro 12:1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
  2. Be a part of a group wherein you can frankly discuss your sins, failures, and flaws
    Pro 27:17  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
    Jas 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  3. Spend time in silence
    From personal experience, spending time in silence is a powerful way to have the tape of your life replay in your mind. If you approach this with the mindset that “I am what I think and what I do,”[2] you’ll find that you might be a lot worse than you are. This is probably not a good discipline for people who struggle with depression or melancholy. But if you want to assess yourself, then it is hard to find a better method.
  4. Journal
    This can come from all of the previous methods. You can write your personal resolutions and your assessment of how you met them or did not.

Conclusion

One of my old karate instructors said, “When presented with two standards, always choose the highest.” Self-deception is easy. Self-knowledge is hard. But the way of self-knowledge allows us to deny ourselves in the truest way. And self-denial under Christ’s guidance is the only way to the life of rest that he promises:

“to step with Jesus into the path of self-denial immediately breaks the iron-clad grip of sin over human personality and opens the way to a fuller and ever fuller restoration of radical goodness to the soul. It accesses incredible, supernatural strength for life.”[3]

References

[1] Observe that while Paul criticizes the “wisdom of this age” Paul never equates that with the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The wisdom of “this age” appears to be the wisdom of making non-Christian ideals ultimate such as riches, knowledge, rhetoric, long life, etc.” These are all goods to seek in the Bible, but they are not to be sought as ultimate or final goals. Instead the Christian who sows and spins for food and clothes is to nevertheless “seek first the kingdom of God.” So don’t take Paul’s warnings as a censure on being wise. Paul actually says that you can become wise if you first admit your foolishness. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 3:19 you see that God’s wisdom (what is revealed in the Old Testament and the gospel) is still good. This is why we shouldn’t boast in our favorite teachers as though they make us superior to other Christians. Instead, we should boast in the Lord.

[2] In Christ this is not all you are, but you are not less than what you think and do.

[3] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), 75.