I’ve often quoted Socrates’ dictum “the unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Yesterday I shared some bible exhortations on examining ourselves with regard to what turns us on, or pushes our buttons of excitement and enthusiasm. But there is another side to consider in self-examination. One writer suggested adding after Socrates dictum the phrase, “the too examined life isn’t worth living either.” I think he’s right!

Paul wisely recognized that even our most conscientious attempts to maintain pure motives fall far short. He explains this in detail. “I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). His point is that indwelling sin taints everything we do. But Paul didn’t allow that to discourage him from aiming at high motives. Neither did he despair of doing anything good. He was content to do his best in life and let God be his Judge. The thing to notice is that there is a difference between “examining” and “doing.” C. S. Lewis, in “God in the Dock” explained this as well as anyone. He writes, “You cannot study pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things?” In what might well have been a reference regarding his work “the Problem with Pain,” Lewis writes, “If only my toothache would stop, I could write another chapter about pain?” He goes on to observe that “but once it stops, I don’t know too much about pain.”

Too much introspection leads to depression and we must be careful about living our lives as introspective people. Everyone must live life, not just study it. Sometimes self-forgetfulness is a great blessing. Getting outside of ourselves and just living and enjoying life is a great gift from God. A professor at Wheaton some years ago, Clyde Kilby, said, “I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are, but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying, and ecstatic” existence. The greatest gift from God, the gift that was unwrapped and displayed for all on Calvary’s cross, with the Gift of His Son. Through him our guilt, hurt, bitterness and pain is resolved and through faith and trust in His work on our behalf we are free to live life in spite of all the trash we find within during our times of introspection.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10