It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters, if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, and had no idea who his father or his mother was, or from what country he came? (Teresa of Avila: First Mansion, Book 1)
A number of years ago we received a surprise visit from my cousin Nancy and her husband Dennis. We spent the afternoon talking and reminiscing. I soon found out Nancy, 15 years older than me, had considerable family history to which I was ignorant. Near the end of our visit Nancy and my wife were looking at family photo albums. At one point I broke from my conversation with Dennis and said, “It’s sad what drinking has done to our side of the family.” Nancy responded, “That’s what not happened to your parents.” Dennis quickly said, “Nancy, I think we need to go.” She firmly replied, “No, Dave needs to know this.”
We jumped back in time to the late 1930’s and proceeded forward: a marriage, a child, a world war, an affair, a baby, an adoption, a family secret, a domestic war, three more children, and a divorce. In this conversation I found out I had a half-sister and realized I have been traveling through life nearly 40 years with a major knowledge gap about my family and myself. And now, in one short afternoon, my life and family made much more sense.
My ignorance about my family could not of been helped — after all, I had no reason to assume any of what I learned that afternoon. Nevertheless, ignorance is harmful and leaves us with disadvantages and impediments in life. Knowledge and understanding is the way forward to a healthier life.
Ignorance about who we are is also harmful spiritually. To remedy this, soul care must become a priority (e.g. reflection, silence, prayer, meditation). It’s too easy to be consumed with what is happening outside our castle (the world around us) or focus on the exterior of our castle (our bodies) and neglect the interior life where we find inner strength and sound direction.
Teresa says, “As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells within them, or how precious they are–those are things we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul’s beauty.”