What Do You Really Know?


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We place such importance on the things we think and feel and believe, but what do we actually know? What is so deep, so solid, and so immovable that you know it without doubting?

Join me this week as we consider what we truly know and what we can do with it.

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In last week’s podcast, we considered the importance of Hope and Optimism and where to find them. As important as those things are, there’s a categorical difference between hope or optimism… and knowing. Hope and optimism are forward-looking and may or may not be grounded in fact. Knowing, on the other hand, is based on what is profoundly and fundamentally true right now.

I’ve quoted for years in therapeutic settings that “the secret of healing is to discover and embrace what within us that never changes.” Not once have I offered an answer to what it might be. After all, as a counselor it’s not my place to answer that question for someone else, especially when their “unchangeable” may be very different from mine.

My own answer to what never changes in me is so singular that I remind myself of it over and over. It’s not something I think. It’s something I know to the depth of my core self. If you’ve been listening to these podcasts for a while, you’ve discovered that I’m not here to push a particular agenda, but to inspire inquiry and self-discovery. That’s especially true when it comes to what it is that makes us who and what we are as human beings.

My own journey of self-discovery has been deepened by the wisdom and heartfulness of good people I’ve met along the way. I can’t think of a single one who gave me “the” definitive answer to anything I was searching for. Instead, they pointed me in a more useful direction as I did the work. Several of them stood so strongly in what they knew about themselves that they inspired me to look even deeper.

One of those people was a visiting theologian I had the pleasure of hearing when I was a student in divinity school nearly fifty years ago. In his late eighties, he’d written several of the books we studied. After he spoke to us in the chapel, we had the opportunity to go downstairs and ask questions of him in a less formal setting. One of the upper classmen asked what he gained from his more than sixty years of theological study.

There was kindness in the old man’s eyes when he said, “Son, do you really want to know?”
When the student nodded, the man quietly said, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
The look on the student’s face was one of confusion and irritation. “That’s it?” he said. “Sixty years of study and all you’ve gained is a Sunday school song? Jesus loves me? That’s it?!”
His compassion unwavering, the old man’s smile broadened. “No son, you missed it,” he said. “This … I know.”

Suddenly moved to tears, I turned to a friend and said, “That’s what I want. I want to know that deeply and that unshakably.” Of course, it would be decades before I recognized that knowing quietly taking root in me.

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Another encounter found me face to face with the late fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta. I’ve written and spoken about it before. The knowing in his eyes and his direct manner of speaking with me left an indelible impression on me. Though he was obviously wealthy and famous, and though he’d been born into a family of financial means and social connection, it was obvious that he knew himself so deeply that he was completely at ease in his own skin.

When he stopped his entourage to talk with me, he did so without a trace of pretense or arrogance. It was clear that he made no assumptions about who he was or his place in the human family or the equality of being we shared. He knew.

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During the past few months, as varying views on issues ranging from social to political to financial to spiritual have presented themselves, I’ve been looking more deeply into what we truly know beyond the spin and the rhetoric. Especially when it comes to how to put what we know into motion.


photo: Scott Lennox


As an exercise into inquiry, here is something of a “starter kit” of questions.

Do you know whether or not you’re an essentially kind person?

Do you know that you are more than your history?

Do you know that all human life is valuable, including yours?

Do you know that you are One with what you know as God?

Do you know that light is more powerful than darkness?

Do you know that you have endured many powerful storms?

Do you know that you are loved?

Do you know that you are safe, despite what’s happening?

Do you know that something mysterious is keeping you alive?

Do you know that kindness and acceptance truly matter?

Do you know yourself more deeply than you let on?

Do you know that there is calm on the other side of every storm?

Do you know the wisdom you carry?

Do you know that it’s time for some essential changes?

Do you know things you can do nothing about?

Do you know things you can act on?

I’m not offering any of these as being necessarily true for you, but as possible doorways to your own search into what is as fixed or immovable as the north star. Deep within you, what is it that doesn’t move or change or become diminished over time? It’s on that foundation, whatever it is, that you’ll engage with yourself and with the world around you.

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This week’s Beautiful Questions are designed to inspire that inquiry and what to do with the things you discover.

One: Without editing or holding back, what do you know to be essentially true within you?

Two: Without editing or holding back, what do you know to be essentially true outside you?

Three: What can you do, where you are and as you are right now, to act on what you know to be true and unchanging?

Four: What gradually takes shape as you keep reminding yourself of what is unchanging in you?

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As always as you sit with these questions, I’d love to know what answers arise for you. Write and tell me about them.

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As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light.

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