Week One, Day One
(from Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ)
"If unconditional readiness to change and true penitence constitute the first foundations of our progress toward the goal which God's mercy has assigned to us -- our transformation in Christ -- the next decisive step along that road is the acquisition of self-knowledge. So long as a man is ignorant of his defects and of their real nature, all his endeavor (be it ever so laudable) to overcome those defects will end in failure. Not infrequently we meet persons who, while sincerely bent on reforming, direct all their attention to merely imaginary faults of theirs, thus fighting against windmills and leaving their real defects untouched. In monastic life this danger is prevented by the discipline specific to a religious order. By his superior to whom he owes obedience, the monk's attention is directed to his real shortcomings and imperfections (including potential dangers) even before he is clearly aware of them himself. . . . Nevertheless, the final accomplishment of our transformation -- the total uprooting of our vices, the levelling of hills and filling up of valleys -- requires a thorough knowledge of our defects. We must beware of neglecting the basic part played by intelligence in our psychic life. For all voluntary acts are conditioned by knowledge. The radical uprooting of a defect of character requires an interior knowledge of that defect.
True self-knowledge is a necessity for him who desires to be transformed in Christ. He must be filled with a real thirst for securing, in the light of God, an accurate notion of himself, such as he is; he must endeavor to get rid of all illusions of complacency, and to detect his particular vices and weaknesses. He must conform to the summons of St. Catherine of Siena, "Let us enter into the cell of our self-knowledge." But he must not believe that self-knowledge is easy of attainment, nor that -- once he forms the desire for self-knowledge -- all his defects will reveal themselves to him in due course. With a healthy distrust of himself, he should continue supposing that he is still entangled in a mesh of illusions, and pray: "Cleanse me of my hidden weaknesses."