Self-understanding is more important than our understanding of machines, even in a technological age. Voices, both secular and religious, are telling us that the way to effective living starts with authentic self-knowledge.

Psychiatrists say that growth towards one’s best follows a personal knowledge of his worst. One of the primary aims of psychiatry is to help people to see themselves. Psychotherapists spend numerous hours over a period of many months in assisting a single person to gain self-knowledge. They know that many of their patients became ill because they could not look at themselves, and they believe that these people must get personal insight in order to recover.

Philosophy has long emphasized the importance of self-knowledge. Socrates gave us the dictum, “Know thyself.” We cannot outlive his words, because they are always contemporary. The philosophers have always emphasized that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Religion calls for self-examination. St. Paul urged the Corinthians to look at themselves in relation to their faith. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—Unless you indeed fail to meet the test” (2 Cor. 13:5). All Paul’s epistles are portraits of the Christian pattern so that his readers might see themselves in the light of that pattern.

Jesus urged men to look at themselves. His personal interviews were invitations to insight. He helped Nicodemus, who wanted to talk about theology, to see his need of spiritual rebirth. He started the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well on the spiritual quest that ended in personal salvation. His parables were graphic word pictures that dealt with the motives and longings ...

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