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Word of the Week – \”Self Examination\”

Definition of the word of the week (SELF EXAMINATION): Careful search, investigation, or inquiry of oneself.

Last year, a plebe cadet came to see me after morning reveille formation and he was fuming mad. A quick glance at his appearance and it was clear that he was, to use military jargon, “ate up.” His personal appearance was terrible and indicated that he did not have sufficient self-respect to look presentable. As he walked up with one of his cadet leaders, I assumed that he was going to claim that he had been unfairly cited for poor appearance. However, I was pleasantly surprised when he readily admitted that his appearance was substandard and he explained his plan to get himself squared away. His gripe was with his cadet leader.

Of course, it is not uncommon for one to vent one’s frustration on others instead of accepting personal responsibility for one’s actions. For example, if the police stop you for speeding, isn’t it easier to get angry at the police officer than it is to admit that you are at fault? In this case, the plebe was not angry that he had been cited for poor appearance. Rather, he was angry that the leader who cited him also demonstrated poor personal appearance. He had a point.

After the plebe left, I chewed that cadet leader’s behind so thoroughly that he never again was hypocritical in discharging his responsibilities. Over the years, I rarely have had to chastise a cadet leader about examining himself before he critiqued others. This cadet leader had to learn, first-hand, the old adage that people in glass houses should not throw stones.

How many of us are quick to point out another’s shortcomings but give ourselves one rationalized excuse after another. As the great Greek philosopher, Socrates, said, “Know thyself.” Knowing oneself is an important step, but it is only the first step of a long journey of self-discovery that starts with self-examination. Then, once we have taken the time to examine ourselves, we must ACT! Thought without action is of little use. As the German philosopher and poet, Johann Von Goethe wrote, “Only by doing is self-knowledge possible.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

He who knows others is clever; He who knows himself has discernment. Lao Tzu, philosopher

Most fears cannot withstand the test of careful scrutiny and analysis. When we expose our fears to the light of thoughtful examination, they usually just evaporate. Jack Canfield, motivational speaker

The criterion of true beauty is that it increases on examination; if false, that it lessens. There is therefore, something in true beauty that corresponds with right reason, and is not the mere creation of fancy. Lord Greville, poet

Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, everyone should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm. Robert Ingersoll, orator

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us