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Read: James 1:22-25

The metaphor of looking at ourselves in a mirror in the book of James skilfully outlines the main features of self-assessment.

First, James shows us that self-assessment begins with instruction. “Hearing the word” is the first step that points us to right behaviour.  In the plan that you are following in this site, this corresponds to the ‘Understand’ phase, where you have received instruction on what virtue is and why it is important.

Second, there is an “intense” activity of looking at our “natural” faces where we concentrate to see who we really are.  In the plan, this is the second phase of ‘Test’, where you are taking some time to evaluate your own character against a list of virtues in order to identify areas of weakness.

Third, self-assessment should lead to action. In looking at ourselves, we should be “doing the word” and looking “intently into the perfect law.” This is potentially the weakest spot in self- assessment, which always runs the risk of remaining mere evaluation without self-improvement. Self-assessment without self-improvement is, in the words of James, self-deceit.  In the plan, this is phase three ‘Practice’.

Finally, self-assessment, when properly done, leads to happiness. James claims that we can thus be “blessed” in our doing. In final phase of the plan, you will find a place to ‘Celebrate’.

This four- fold sequence, “learn–look–do–and be happy,” tells us that, as we self-assess and improve our walk in virtue in accordance with God’s laws of morality, we will find deep happiness.  But this does not happen naturally. Nor quickly.  And it is something that requires bending our will to these practices.

A prayer:  Lord grant that I may hear your word.  Then open my eyes to see myself as I truly am.  Then give the strength and constancy to do that which will shape what I am.  And as I find happiness, remind me to return to you in gratefulness.

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