Spiritual Direction and Self-Knowledge
All knowledge falls into four categories. These four categories, when applied to a person look a bit like this:
|1. Things everyone
knows about me.
|2. Things only I know about myself.|
|3. Things others know
about me of which I am ignorant.
| 4. Things nobody
knows about me.
Quick examples of each:
1. I have red hair (at least, what’s left of it). This is evident to not only myself, but to those around me.
2. There are some pieces of information I might not share with other people. Perhaps suffering, a rock in my shoe, liking Michael Bolton… assuming this is true. It’s not. Really. I mean really. Stop it.
3. Difficult for me to identify since, by definition, I am ignorant of these things. Something like a ‘Kick Me’ sign.
4. These are things unknown to everyone, yet are true. An undetected tumor, for instance.
In the spiritual life, a person can read every Biblical passage, letter from a saint and inane blog post that time allows, but that simply perpetuates the first and second type of knowledge. Unfortunately, man’s ability to perfectly know himself was lost along with the rest of Original Justice and so we must turn to others so that we might learn of the third type of knowledge and be directed to discover the fourth.
St. Francis de Sales says of Spiritual Directors:
“..he will be as a storehouse of wisdom to us in our sorrows, trials and falls; he will be as a healing balm to stay and soothe our heart in the time of spiritual sickness,—he will shield us from evil, and confirm that which is good in us, and when we fall through infirmity, he will avert the deadly nature of the evil, and raise us up again.”
“…you must look to God, Who will help you and speak to you through this man, putting into his heart and mouth that which is needful to you; so that you ought to hearken as though he were an angel come down from Heaven to lead you thither.”
The insight a Director may provide is not a simple result of education and experience, but, because of the nature of the role, a direction of the Spirit. Naturally, there are those who may wish to manipulate or abuse the position or pollute it with pride or self-righteousness, but if a Director is truly humble and open to the promptings of God, a profound relationship is discovered.
A years-old example pulled from my personal experience has me trying to humorously explain to my Spiritual Director my preference for confessing anonymously from behind the screen. “When confessing face to face,” I told him, “I always make light of my sins or joke about them and try to convince him I’m a good person!” Ignoring my humor entirely, he looked me in the eye and said, “You are a good person.” Enter hours of discussion regarding self-doubt and the spiritual correction, healing and growth that, likely, would not have taken place if I had stuck to my journal.
Though they may be hard to find – St. Francis says they are one in ten thousand – a good Spiritual Director is worth more than his or her weight in gold. If you do not have a Spiritual Director, but know a good priest who might be willing to spend one hour a month helping you on your spiritual journey, ask him to meet so as to discern such a relationship.
For those of you who are nervous or unsure, just say, “Would you be interested in possibly being my spiritual director?” Easy stuff.