Get ready, readers—it’s time for a pop quiz. There’s just one question, and every answer is correct. There is one stipulation though—you must give the first answer that comes to mind (no fair self-editing or copying off your neighbor). Get your paper before you and your pencil poised . . .
Ready? Here’s the question: How are you doing today?
Not too difficult, was it? Let’s see what sort of responses came through.
Was your answer something other than fine, peachy keen, doing well or hanging in there? Kudos to you, then! Most of us, including me, respond with typical conversational pleasantries. Pleasantries keep people at a distance and pave the way for typical polite, generalized exchanges.
Why do we do that?
I think two factors cause us to shrink back from honest conversation: ignorance and fear. We are either in the dark about our inner condition because busy lives don’t allow for a healthy amount of self-awareness or we don’t want to share our self-awareness with people who may potentially mishandle our hearts.
When I spend enough time listening to all that rattles about my heart, I don’t have to use the typical responses because the truth of how I am is at-the-ready. The opposite is also true—when I fail to take the time for self-assessment, I cannot share myself with others.
Writing keeps me from succumbing to ignorance and fear. Journal entries, blog posts, scribbled thoughts and phrases—all these act as a gauge for my heart. They tell me how I’m doing. If I fail to get these onto the page, the truth sinks to the bottom, where it is unseen and unable to be shared.
In this week’s High Calling Blogs Book Club reading, we see the value of self-awareness and the necessity of knowing how we are really doing. Author Julia Cameron says this in The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life:
Writing is like looking at an inner compass. We check in and we get our bearings. Ah-ha! I am feeling, thinking, remembering. . . . When we know accurately what it is that we are doing, we tend to be more open, accurate, and affectionate in our dealings [with people].1
One suggestion Cameron gives for initiating a regular knowing of your own self is writing Morning Pages (three pages of freehand writing to process your internal rumblings). She says “they help me to access a warmer and wiser part of myself than my busy modern business persona.”2
Writing regularly keeps you from erecting a persona that is a mere shell of yourself. Such facades are pretty to look at, indeed, but they aren’t easy to know. Writers must know themselves, and write from there. And really, humans must know themselves, and live from there.
The best way I’ve found to know my own self is to regularly get before God, the one who knows me better than I know myself. I simply ask Him to show me how I’m doing. I ask Him to translate the foreign lines and phrases inside me. I ask Him to “search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23–24).
God uses this written prayer and journaling to tell me how I am (needy, forgiven, loved). More important, God reminds me who I am (His child, a sinner saved by grace). This is the truest me I can share without succumbing to fear or ignorance.
Join the HCB Book Club. Read other The Right to Write posts from this week here.
1. Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), 77.
2. Julia Cameron, 83.