Corrie Ten Boom said, “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” I find Aristotle guiding me along this train of thought as he highlights that the biggest enemy we face is not necessarily something, or someone, external to us: “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”
So where does this leave me? Or, rather, what does it draw me back to? A quote (naturally) from Jeremiah, echoing this awareness that we are at times our own worst enemy: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” This statement has always gripped me by the heart because it succeeds in simultaneously debunking the illusion that we have ourselves figured out. It is a sobering truth that the person we should know the best can be the most deceitful and seemingly uncurable.
Taking a long, good look at yourself is generally not a pleasant experience, but I also firmly agree with Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living and that the examination of self needn’t be isolated or depressing . This thought brings be back to Virginia Woolf: “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people”. This notion that a balanced view of who we are enables us to put the world, and the people around us in perspective is a valuable one. Equally valuable is, to my mind, the process of learning to yield to the wisdom of our friends (thanks for that one Sophocles!) trusting that they see us with eyes of love and thus enable us to disarm the enemies within in a way we could never achieve flying solo.
And finally one last thought from Woolf that somehow ties in with all of this or ties it all together: “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”