Do You Know Who You Are {Book Club}

Today we’re discussion Chapter 4 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero: Know Yourself That You May Know God. This chapter title encapsulates why I love this book. We embrace our humanity and seek to understand ourselves. But the ultimate goal is through knowing ourselves we can know God.

The theme (and power) of knowing ourselves has come up before. For instance, when we know if we are a pre- or post-griever and that our spouse, child, teammate, or parent is a different style, we can process and understand what’s going on. Or at least we can understand it a little bit better, right?

Scazzero wrote that “feelings are the beginning of the revolution” and that many Christians have been taught some version of “feelings are bad.” It’s helpful to read the research he referenced about the eight many groups of feelings: anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, and shame.

“It never entered my mind that God might be speaking to me in the ‘feeling’ realm in a way that did not compromise his truth. How could I listen to my desires, dreams, and dislikes? Wouldn’t they potentially take me the way of rebellion, away from God?”

I have a feeling (ha!) many of you/us were taught some variation of this as well. Can you remember how you got this message? Was it overtly said? Or something you just “knew?” Where do you land on it now? I appreciated all the scripture he shared, showing God’s wide range of feelings and that we all feel, even if we’re not aware of it.

What did you think of “The Great Temptations Toward a False Self?” A little convicting, eh?

Temptation one: I am what I do (Performance). Wow, this one hits close to home, doesn’t it? We’ve talked about the “hero” mentality when it comes to this calling and how others like to keep us up on a pedestal. But our true selves are not about what we do, or where we do it.

Temptation twoI am what I have (Possessions). Well, now I feel a little better. Or do I? I was able to keep a car in the U.S. for about the first–oh my word, don’t judge me, okay? Please?–thirteen years I was on the field. When it came time for Margo (my car) to move on, it about undid me. That car meant so much more to me than people might think. First of all, she linked me to my pre-field self and knew more of my story than all the people in my life who had “only” met me on the field. Also, as I aged and most of my friends got married, had kids, and bought houses, was it too much to ask that I have one measly car?! Could I not have one thing I could point to as being mine? Something others recognized as “adult behavior” and that I was a real adult?! Okay, so, this one might have hit a nerve I didn’t think was there. Let’s look at …

Temptation three: I am what others think (Popularity). When all you have in this whole world is one old car, what others think can grow and grow. If I’m thought of as spiritual, good at living overseas, fun, well-balanced, deep, helpful … well, then, I haven’t forsaken worldly possessions for naught? Have I? Have I?!

This, dear ones, is why we need to read this book and discuss it. These temptations are real, aren’t they? What people think of our language ability or parenting or scripture memory or whatever. These are not bad things. No, they are wonderful, but they are not the source of our identities.

To know our “authentic self” Scazzero had four suggestions:

  1. Pay attention to your interior ion silence and solitude.
  2. Find trusted companions.
  3. Move out of your comfort zone.
  4. Pray for courage.

This was a rich chapter and I can’t wait to hear what stood out to you, what was stirred in you, and what you’d like to discuss. See you in the comments :).

Amy

P.S. Next week is chapter 5 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

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9 Comments

  1. Rachel October 13, 2015

    My circle of Christian friends and acquaintances may not be statistically average, but it seems that for each one who stuffs their emotions (because they aren’t concrete like the Bible), there is one who puts too much stock in emotions, following them rashly without considering whether they were God-given or not. One is emotionally dead, focused on the cycle of Christian doing. The other is manic, doing things that feel spiritual, not knowing which spirit is communicating with them. They both need to learn balance.

    I grew up in churches that were not charismatic. We didn’t do feelings. We did, “What does the Bible say?” As if the two don’t go together. In my late teens/early 20’s, I read The Sacred Romance, followed by The Journey of Desire, followed by Captivating. Through these, I learned about paying attention to desires and feelings, discerning where they came from, and following God-given ones.

    Something that I’ve been mulling over from chapter 4 is the story about Sheila Walsh. When she was asked “who are you” she began talking about what she does, only to be shot down, “No, that’s what you do. Who are you?” How is someone supposed to answer that question without listing their roles in the world around them? It’s so abstract and so broad. She admitted that she didn’t really know who she was. I believe I know my true self, but I don’t think I could give a satisfactory response to the question, “Who are you?” So I begin to doubt myself. Can I not put it into words because I don’t really know my authentic self? Or is it a trick question? Because really, to learn who I am, you’re going to have to spend a few years with me. I can’t just tell you.

    1. Amy Young October 14, 2015

      Rachel, I love these thoughts! I get what you’re saying about some people being either too feeling oriented or too feeling dismissive. Holding space for feelings to be important without being supreme is not easy … I think that’s why people default to one or the other.

      As to the “who are you?” question, hmmm, I hadn’t thought of it as a trick question but I can see what you’re saying. My thought on this would be “who is asking?” If it’s Sheila’s therapist and that person is trying to help Sheila untangle what’s going on inside of her, it’s a helpful question to point her beyond what she does. But if I’ve just met you and we are chit-chatting, I think I’d stick with the list of what I do :). I agree that what we do and who we are dance together, but they are also distinct. Too often, though, the DO part takes over. Thanks for your thoughts!!

      1. Ellie October 20, 2015

        I think I find the “who are you?” question overwhelming because of being an introvert and can’t get my head round the information to present too – I always found job interviews hard and I think that’s partly because of not knowing how to “sell myself” and I have benefitted from knowing myself better and being able to present my strengths but also, like you say, so difficult to condense your “essence” into one sentence that you hope the other person knows that whatever you say that will only ever be a tiny fraction of you and you might have “got it wrong” and given them the “wrong bits” to represent you?! 🙂

         

  2. Beth Everett October 14, 2015

    Rachel, I grew up in the opposite camp – in a very charismatic church. I too went on a personal journey in my twenties and through my thirties asking the Lord to show me “what is truth?”. And it’s an ongoing journey – perhaps as it should be. I appreciate the author referencing Ignatius of Loyola where he emphasized the “importance of maintaining a balance between our reason (intellect) and feelings (heart).” And the importance of a “foundation of a complete commitment to do God’s will, follow Scripture, and seek wise counsel” balanced with understanding how “God speaks to us through the raw material of our emotions”.

    A quote I came away from Seminary always remembering and using in so many areas of my life is one from Robertson McQuilkin about staying in “the center of biblical tension”. I think as people we seem to tend to naturally move into one area of extreme or the other (about every issue under the sun!), perhaps because to hold things in balance does indeed create a tension, and we generally don’t like tension. But tension can be good, and can keep us balanced, honest and humble.

    I have found God’s “will” through reading His Word, and I have found Him as I literally beat my fists in the air and shouted at Him, and then crumbled to the floor and allowed His Spirit to minister to my heart. He has met me both places. One means was not greater than then other, but both showed me more of myself and much more of God.

    Amy, there is so much packed into this book and chapter! So much to think about, process and comment on.  The four points about knowing our authentic self – all so good!  I especially appreciate the importance of silence and solitude – so important and so often lost in our busy lives and busier world.

    1. Ellie October 20, 2015

      “holding the two things in tension” was a phrase often repeated at our Bible college too about so many things and I find it does serve me well often – but I wish I didn’t have to! Especially when as cross-cultural workers we see more sides of everything sometimes then if we’d stayed in our countries of origin and so it’s hard because I feel like often people “back home” or in some of the churches we work with “on the field” can’t see it. It’s hard to be between worlds. I wish I could just escape sometimes to a place where things were straightforward! 🙂 I guess that will be Heaven?

  3. Rankin October 17, 2015

    This chapter was challenging on so many levels.  Taking the time out to really feel, know myself, and be more who the Father made me to be is often something that I don’t enjoy doing because what if it effects my work, what people think of me, or the money I can make? Ha!  It is all so connected.

    She lists the consequences of our false self: fear, self protection, possessiveness, manipulation, self-destructive tendencies, self-promoation, self-indulgence, and a need to distinguish ourselves from others.  While walking forward in knowing ourselves and becoming who God has made us to be may not be comfortable I think the alternative is at times even more uncomfortable.

    Reminders of his grace in this journey of knowing ourselves and becoming more like him are needed.  I like how she writes, “If you move forward, however, you will find that God is with you and behind you.   His grace is sufficient.  His power is accessible.  And the unknown before you is really like poking through Jell-O.”

  4. Sally Dharminder October 19, 2015

    Dear Danielle (and BC team), thank you for inviting me to this reading community. Only that I don’t have current access to Scazzero’s book, and even if I did, I don’t have the time to read it – for now.

    But if it’s ok with you gals, I would love to read your takes on parts / chapters of the book. For now, at least. When I next can, will go get the book 🙂

    thanks,

    Sally

  5. Ellie October 20, 2015

    I really loved the list of different emotions – I’ve never seen it written out before and I found it really helpful to be able to link “ah, irritated is linked to angry” – sounds stupid that that’s news to me but I think that we didn’t really do emotions in my family and Christian teaching on top of that was explicitly not to trust our emotions because they can mislead us (I think they can but if you are not in the habit of listening to them anyway or don’t know what they are this is a further inadvertent “locking up”…)

    I am gradually learning to sit with my emotions and to trust them more – that if I feel uncomfortable about something instead of telling myself I “shouldn’t” be feeling that and squashing it down, trusting myself and listening to the full argument “I feel uncomfortable because he did/said x and that makes me think…” and then working out from there (sometimes I am finding a real reason for distrust, sometimes maybe tapping in to my own anxieties making things bigger – but learning that not listening is a denying of self in a dangerous and unhealthy way.)

    This book is good but it’s so dense! I feel like I’m going to need to re-read it several times in the future and sometimes it’s nearly overwhelming and I can only read a small chunk at a time – might be just where I’m at! 🙂

  6. T October 26, 2015

    I agree w/Ellie–the book is really full, and will merit it me rereading it–I do look forward to the concrete, practical examples from their lives, and when they show up, I really like it!

    A comment on the “Who are you?” question–When he mentioned Sheila Walsh, I was like…hmmm. I know that name…and googled it and realized that she is the author of the Gigi, God’s Little Princess books and videos that my daughter liked when she was younger.  So, I think the answer that Sheila herself would answer now to “Who are you?” would be I am God’s daughter, princess, joint heir with Jesus, sinner saved by grace.  That seems to me to have been the point of her books, to get that into little girls’ heads before they get messed up by any other thinking!  I’m thankful for some studies I did in college about finding my identity in Christ, which came at an important time and really shaped me.  Of course, I’m still, as he mentioned in this chapter–prone to being devastated by a single remark of criticism, so I’m not all set yet!

    Anyway, I’m catching up in book club!  🙂

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