Since this is so important, sisters, let us strive to get to know ourselves better and better, even in the very smallest matters, and take no notice of all the fine plans that come crowding into our minds when we are at prayer, and that we think we will put into practice and carry our for the good of our neighbors in the hope of saving just one soul. If our later actions are not in harmony with those plans, we can have no reason for believing that we should ever have put them into practice. I say the same about humility and of all the virtues; the wiles of the devil are terrible, he will run a thousand times round hell if by so doing he can make us believe that we have a single virtue that we have not. And he is right, for such ideas are very harmful, and such imaginary virtues, when they come from this source, are never unaccompanied by vainglory; just as those that God gives are free both from this and from pride. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Three)
The discerning person looks to wisdom, but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17.24)
Each day brings countless opportunities for enrichment and influence. We sabotage those opportunities two ways. The first is through those “fine plans” that “come crowding into our minds”. The second is through our lack of self-knowledge.
Mother Teresa said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.” The problem with “big plans” is we focus our eyes to “the ends of the earth” and don’t assess the acquisition of resources, the skill development, and the commitment required to align ourselves with those plans.
Our lack of self-knowledge leaves us vulnerable to the devil. He convinces us we have virtues we don’t have and robs us of humility. This is why we should be concerned about too much focus on self-esteem instead of self-knowledge. We end up lying to ourselves about ourselves.
“Big plans” and lack of self-knowledge work in tandem to feed arrogance and insecurity when we need humility and confidence. I’m not against a clarifying vision, careful planning, or trying to accomplish great things. But I am against the “all hat, no cattle” conversations that saturate some ministries (and some lives). Our eyes are on the “ends of the earth” and nothing gets done.