Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Self-awareness. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Seo Sang-moon recently passed the academic part of his driver's license examination on his 272nd attempt. The 70 year old repairman, from a small town in Korea, said he was illiterate and used the test process to teach himself the rules of the road because he could not read them in a manual. Each failure taught him a little more, and after 271 attempts, he was able to get the minimum score needed to pass the academic test.

Seo Sang-moon apparently never considered an alternative way of dealing with the problem Ė learning to read. In our lives too, we sometimes focus on an aspect of something that troubles us when in fact itís only a symptom. There may be a deeper cause which if attended to, might affect more widespread beneficial changes in our lives.

Jesus once surprised the crowd who followed him by offering a paralysed man forgiveness when he had thought his problem was his inability to use his legs. In the end he went away walking. Perhaps today itís worth asking ourselves if the issues we are dealing with in our lives are the most helpful ones or whether it might be more helpful to tackle those which are at a deeper level. If so, there may be people around who, like Jesus, have already noticed our deeper needs and would be glad to help.


An Under-13 Rugby Union side was told by their manager to stop playing at half time. The side, Norwich, were being beaten by Shelford, 50-0. Nigel Francis said heíd told the boys to give up because they had played in a Sevens Tournament the previous day and were exhausted. It was not going to be good for them to continue. The opposing manager wasnít happy. ĎItís a poor example to set to children Ė to tell them itís OK to give up if youíre losing.í

Sometimes, on the other hand, it takes courage to admit thereís no point in continuing. Indeed, there are times in life when giving in and accepting defeat is the gateway to a new, more positive way of moving forward. On one occasion, the disciples of Jesus had had to give up after a long night of unsuccessful fishing (Luke 5.1-11). Jesus however saw where a good haul of fish was to be had and following his instructions, their luck dramatically changed.

There may be aspects of our lives today where we are battling on because we are unwilling to admit failure. Sometimes such determination is appropriate and eventually productive. But just as often, the willingness to abandon the struggle somehow creates a new opening. It may be that by giving up we are enabled to see things differently or to become more willing to receive help and advice. God is often more able to help us when we stop struggling. To let go in a losing battle is not necessarily a poor example to set.


There have been many stubborn fights with gravity throughout history. At the International Bognor Birdman this weekend, contestants from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan as well as UK who have developed their own flying machines will swoop off Bognor Pier...and crash inelegantly into the sea. Dressing for the occasion is obligatory: Mary Poppins, Superwoman and Peter Pan have all wowed the crowds over the years with their spectacular, albeit doomed, aviation attempts. But the big prize of £25,000 will go to the first flyer that manages the longest distance beyond 100 metres. The 1992 record of 89.2 metres held by David Bradshaw will take some beating but that wonít stop nearly thirty competitors trying to defy their natural state and fly.

They are not the only ones to want to do things which donít come naturally. Many of us spend a lot of time and energy aiming for whatís inappropriate for our personalities or level of skill. The apostle Paul advised his readers to arrive at a sober estimate of what was within their grasp. He was thinking specifically of the way they expressed their faith but the same is true of the rest of life. We can waste effort and undermine our own confidence by trying to achieve goals which donít take proper account of who we are.

Most of us are glad of any encouragement which extends the range of our competence and setting appropriate aims for our lives can be an important element in this. But letís make sure our goals are the right ones for us, otherwise we too may be in for a spectacular and sodden flop.


The Bentley Brook Inn in Fenny Bentley is to host the 11th Ben & Jerry's World Toe Wrestling Championships this weekend. Contestants sit opposite each other on the "Toedium" and, locking big toes, place their feet on a small wooden frame, imaginatively termed the "Toesrack". At the cry of "Toedown" they wrestle both right and left feet, in a straight knockout competition with the winner being the person who pushes his or her opponent's foot to the bookend on the side of the frame.

Wrestling can also be done in an even less physical way than with toes. Trials of strength are common between parents and children, between partners, among work colleagues. They provide ways of pushing the boundaries to establish where each person stands and of discovering more about our own identity in the process.

In the biblical story (Genesis 32.22-32) where Jacob wrestles with an unknown antagonist, later discovered to be God, he is given a new name in the process. It is as if the struggle enabled him to know for the first time who he really was.

Letís today be grateful for those who sometimes resist us. In the consequent battle of wills, we can learn much about ourselves, sometimes finding new strength and sometimes accepting appropriate limitations. Being world champion toe wrestler may be a prize worth fighting for but getting a clearer idea about who we are and how we best relate to others is an even more desirable one.


About 300 runners will set off tomorrow from the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Powys to try and outrun 30 horses and their riders over a tough 22 mile course. The first human being to beat all the horses will win a prize which increases by £1,000 every year, and now stands at £25,000. The money is pretty safe.

It takes a particular kind of athlete to take on a challenge they have no hope of achieving. Yet many of us do something similar in our lives. Setting ourselves goals which are beyond us, putting ourselves in positions where the only realistic outcome is failure, can make living much more of a struggle than necessary. The attempt is unlikely even to provide the fun which is the runnersí motivation.

Ronald Reagan, who is being so fondly remembered today, once quipped: They say hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance? Letís today check that weíre not pushing ourselves harder than we need.


Over 200 people around the world compete for the annual Extreme Ironing Award. It's given to the person who did his or her ironing in the most unlikely place. In order to win the prize, there must be a photographic record of the achievement. Not enough to do it, you have to be seen to do it.

Many of us like our achievements to be acknowledged by others, particularly by those we love. It's a very child-like quality but one which is appropriately carried into adulthood. For some people, though, it can become a less healthy need to be constantly centre stage. When this is what motives us, we win other peopleís attention but often at the cost of distorting our natural selves.

Others of us are out of sync in the opposite way. We fight shy of drawing attention to ourselves. The cost of this is that sometimes that we miss opportunities to develop our lives by our failure to step forward. Jesus perhaps recognised this danger in the tax-collector, Zacchaeus, who had climbed into a tree to get sight of Jesus. By drawing attention to him and calling him down, Jesus enabled a new beginning in his life.

Extravagantly ostentatious hobbies or delight in moments of quiet aloneness can be important elements in a healthy life style. But other kinds of extreme behaviour can undermine our ability to achieve our full potential. Perhaps today we might reflect on whether we have the right balance in our lives between seeking and avoiding attention.


In the carriage GNER have designated as Ďquietí (no mobiles etc), a woman is talking to her boyfriend on the phone. A disagreement appears to be developing until finally, ĎI am not shoutingí, she shouts down the phone.

Our human ability to deceive ourselves is considerable. We often donít know what we are doing. We donít see ourselves as others do. Everybody else in the coach could hear what was happening. We could have told her how she was coming over to her boyfriend.

One of the purposes of prayer is to help us see ourselves as we really are. To imagine God looking at us, and asking ourselves what God sees, is a very helpful way of getting a better picture of who we are and how we might come across to others.

Sometimes also we do ourselves a favour by letting others tell us how they see us. We donít have to ask them straight out. There are more subtle ways of doing it. But perhaps today might be a day for checking out whether there is any aspect of our personalities or behaviour about which we are deceiving ourselves.