Knowing your limitations is knowing yourself as well


The Green phrase translated as “know thyself” has defined the attitudes of Greeks entering the Temple of Delphia. Photo Credit:

Andrew Monthey, Opinions Editor

At the Delphi Temple, a laconic phrase was etched above the entrance. It is only two words and its meaning can be seen in many ways. The Greek “gnothi seauton” is faintly etched in above the low hanging gateway between the human world and the ritual world, at least for the Greek. “Gnothi seauton” is Greek for “know thyself.” And before you enter into a new world, you had better know yourself.

Knowing yourself is more than just knowing “who you are.” This last phrase is tossed by many people. There is some sort of pursuit to finally reach a point in our lives where we are unchanging, and completely comfortable and knowledgeable of “who we are.” But we do not understand this term fully.

Because the problem is that we are chasing pavement in that search. We certainly can know who we are in a moment. We can define who we are by what we are. I could say that I am an American, I am an English speaker, I am a soon-to-be graduate, etc. But what we realize is that we “are” a lot of different things. We are not exclusive to just “Andy” or “Bob.”

But what we can know is ourselves. Knowing yourself is like discovering yourself. Part of this discovery is made by knowing your limitations. We are often told from childhood that we are all perfect kids, each with our own natures and specialties. We are told that we can be good at anything with a little commitment and joy. It is an attractive promise, that I could be a professional basketball player tomorrow.

But it does not work that way. There are things in our life which we simply are never going to be. There are identities we will likely never take on. I will likely never be a physicist, nor a doctor. But there are things we can “do.” One of these is to know ourselves.

When the Greek kings (kings, mind you) entered into the temple at Delphi, the first thing they saw is the prophetic words “gnothi seauton.” The Greeks knew that this short phrase was worth writing above one of their most sacred place. They knew that to know yourself was to in effect understand not only your potential but your limitations.

Why does this all matter? Because when you enter into the unknown (as the Greek kings did at Delphi), you must know yourself, your limitations, and your identities. When you confront the most frightening places and people, or wander through the foggiest areas, you will always have yourself. And if you know yourself, than you know all that matters in that moment.

Good luck to all who are moving on to the next stage in their lives (i.e. those graduating, moving, etc.). Just go forward into the unknown knowing yourself and what it means to you.

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Author: Brendan Raleigh

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