Letter to my son: Know yourself with a Brutal Honesty

You’ve got to put in the work to figure out your driving motivations, your true passions, your honest feelings and beliefs, your style, your personality, etc.

Many years ago, I was grieving some significant setbacks relating to our attempts to have children. Out of that grief came the first many entries in what was a long letter to my future son. I have my son now. And I look forward to raising him to answer these fundamental questions and follow these foundational rules. Each individual part can be found here.  

Continued from here

You’re not the be all and end all. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Your mom and I think you’re great, but no one else is under any obligation to like you.

You’ve got to know yourself with extreme clarity and brutal honesty.

I want to drive home the point, so what I’m about to say is properly contextualized: You’ve got to know yourself with extreme clarity and brutal honesty.

You’ve got to put in the work to figure out your driving motivations, your true passions, your honest feelings and beliefs, your style, your personality, etc. Not to overvalue yourself. Not to be demanding of others. But to enable you to add value to others.

This self-awareness is absolutely fundamental to everything we’ve already talked about – and much of what we will talk about.

I know by now you’ve heard me say, “We sin in the image of God.” Let me unpack that again for you. The Bible tells us that God made man in his image. We understand that to refer not to physical form, but to attributes and traits. The capacity for relationships, worship, creativity, etc. Each of these traits requires us to make decisions.

Made in the image of God means made for relationships. We can build God-honoring relationships full of love, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice, or we can sin the image of God by developing toxic relationships full of jealousy, selfishness, and manipulation.

Made in the image of God means made to worship. We can agree with God that he alone is worthy of worship, or we can sin in the image of God by worshiping money, status, success, sex, or pleasure.

We can pursue the only true, lasting joy by finding our satisfaction in God, or we can sin in the image of God by searching for joy in anything else.

 

Made in the image of God means creative. We can create beauty that points to the ultimate Creator, or we can sin in the image of God by creating shallow selfishness that glorifies the created.

Made in the image of God means built for joy. We can pursue the only true, lasting joy by finding our satisfaction in God, or we can sin in the image of God by searching for joy in anything else.

I could go on and on with specific attributes and traits, and the pattern would be the same.

Bringing this back to the topic at hand: we each have this imprint of our creator woven into us. We each need to find the God-honoring expression of that imprint. By being brutally honest with yourself, you’re going to expose those areas where you’re “sinning in the image of God.” You will identify a few driving needs, a few unanswered questions, and few unsatisfied cravings that stand out from the rest. These already are the driving factors in your life whether you realize it or not.

I’m telling you to realize it. Understand it. Analyze it.

 

I’ll make it personal. I have a deep need to be understood. It’s why my core values include “live a principled life”, “know your own mind”, and “words mean things”. It’s why I’m so passionate about “figuring people out” – it’s my subconscious hope that they’ll return the favor.

When I’m expressing this need in the most healthy way, I’m satisfied that God knows me as intimately as I’ll ever need to be know. I’m learning about others so I can serve them and honor them. I’m being vulnerable when appropriate. And I’m expressing myself in constructive ways.

When I’m sinning in the image of God, I’m a selfish jackass who expresses myself in the most inflammatory way and demands that my audience “figure it out or shut up.” I make it about me, and I require them to, in essence, worship me by devoting their energy to figuring out what I need them to understand.

I hope the idea is coming into focus for you. You need to know yourself so you can identify those motivating desires. Then you need to carefully self-assess how you express those needs – are you honoring God or sinning in his image?

If we were made for relationships, and I believe that’s unquestionably true, knowing yourself is an indispensable discipline. It will help you find peace with God. It will help you relate to other people. It will help you resolve conflict – maybe even avoid some. It will protect you when others try to tear you down. It will enable you to bring your best to others.

Simply put: understand your motivating needs, and learn to satisfy them in God-honoring ways.