Image by Glen Carrie.
Know thyself. This famous maxim was originally inscribed into the temple in ancient Greece dedicated to the God, Apollo, in Delphi. The importance of acquiring self-knowledge is part of the human race’s earliest and most enduring philosophical tenets.
St Teresa of Avila wrote that nothing helped a person to grow humanly and spiritually so much as prayer and self-knowledge; that is, a living relationship with God and our clear understanding, in the light of that relationship, of ourselves, our beliefs, our actions, our motivations, our strengths and our weaknesses.
In fact, these two, prayer and true self-knowledge, go naturally hand in hand, but today we’re focusing on how growth in self-knowledge helps us to be more peaceful parents.
In young children we see a lot of action, and very little understanding about or reflection on those actions. But by the time we become parents, boy, we have seen and experienced a lot haven’t we? We know who we are and what we want to do, and we have dreams for ourselves and for our children. ‘What more is there to know about myself?’ We might think.
But we human beings are so complex! We can always grow deeper in self-knowledge and our parenting will always be better for it. For example, I only discovered in recent years that I absolutely need to have quite a large chunk of quiet time for myself every day, as much as I need food and drink.
Before this, I felt guilty for sitting my then three children under five in front of the TV and hiding in my room sometimes.
I thought I was being selfish and that I just couldn’t cope as a mother – because what kind of a mother can’t bear being with her kids all of the time, every day? Well, I did a personality test and talked to a wise friend and it turned out that I wasn’t being a bad mother to need frequent time out – that God’s given me the kind of disposition which really needs it in order to be a more peaceful and positive parent.
Growing in self-knowledge isn’t really as simple as completing a personality test – although these can be helpful. It can require some deep work, looking at the things in our lives which have shaped us and discovering reasons behind the patterns in thinking and behaviour that we want to change. It may lead to us realising that we need to forgive someone or seek forgiveness. But the result will be greater freedom to be the parents we really want to be – and the best possible parents for our children.
Have you ever realised something about yourself which helped you to be less frustrated or guilty as a parent? Tell us below!
(PS. The picture at the beginning of this post has little relevance except for the fact that I really like raspberries and thought I’d show them to you – that’s about it!)