Know Thyself

Let’s start with a little history and linguistics, just for fun… 
An “aphorism” is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic (concise) and memorable form. Aphorism literally means a “distinction” or “definition”. The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates. The term was later applied to maxims of physical science, then statements of all kinds of philosophical, moral, or literary principles. In modern usage an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise statement containing a subjective truth or observation cleverly and pithily written. Thus, an aphorism is a noun meaning a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation  a maxim.

The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; or also σαυτόν — sauton with the ε contracted) is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, according to the Greek periegetic (travelogue) writer Pausanias (10.24.1). [Are you impressed?] 🙂   

I’ve often wondered if you can be successful or joyful in life if you don’t know yourself. If you really don’t know yourself, how can you “to your own self be true”? 

 How do you know your own identity? 

One way is to remember that our lives in Christ are identifiable. People can see what our values are — how we face a crisis, the way we treat our families, how we relate to the awesome commands of God, and where our priorities are placed. So what would others say of you? “He is faithful! Moral! Full of integrity! Prayerful! Humble! Obedient! Devout! Committed to his family!” Or maybe a combination of these things? 

Or would they describe you in less flattering terms? “He is arrogant. Prideful. Stubborn. Difficult.” Regardless, you have identifying characteristics and a “great cloud of witnesses.” My colleague — what identity will you leave behind?

I am moved by the one who wrote: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

Let me ask you a very personal question. Have you ever awakened early on a Monday morning with the thought, “I wonder how long I can keep doing what I’m doing?” Have you ever scripted a resignation letter in your head, but never got around to writing it? How are you feeling about yourself and your assignment today? 

In my work with pastors, I have found the following to be true: 
   (1) We need to see progress.
   (2) We need to be allowed to dream new dreams.
   (3) We need to be around positive people rather than negative thinkers.
   (4) We need times of rest and restoration.
   (5) We must have the support of our families.
   (6) We need to be able to relate in a positive way to colleagues.
   (7) We need periods of personal revival to see us through the dark times.
   (8) We want to be seen as change agents.

The list could go on.

When you think about what we do, it becomes obvious that ministry is not for cowards. Are you able to fulfill the mandate of your call and, also, are you using your gifts effectively? I know it’s a lot to think about, but it is really vital if you are to know yourself and enjoy what God has called you to do. 

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).


©2014 HB London. Originally posted at