The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

Socrates quote, the unexamined life is not worth living, self-awareness

The unexamined life is not worth living.


This is one of the most quoted lines of ancient philosophy. It may also be one of the most neglected. Our lives are busy, the pace of each day is frantic, distractions and interruptions are constant, silence and solitude rare, and the ways of deep reflection that is both critical-analytical and existential-imaginative have virtually disappeared.

Life is beautiful and vast.
There is mystery and messiness all around... and within.
There are many things that matter most which deserve careful and frequent attention.

  • John Calvin quote, true wisdomWho am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What am I to do?
  • Will it ultimately matter that I do the things I do?
  • Does anyone care?
  • Do I have value?
  • Why is there evil (and so much of it)?
  • Can I endure when evil intrudes in my life?
  • Why is it so easy to do wrong things?
  • What is true?
  • Is there truth that is true not just for me, but for us?
  • How do I know?

These are the great questions of life, and for every individual life. In the 21st century, our general preference is to "be distracted" from such questions. Therefore, amusements and diversions are omnipresent in our culture. 

Happiness is to be found in wrestling through these questions and then in the quest for a life that is ordered along wise answers to these questions. Amusements offer a temporary distraction that gives us a short lived "thrill" or "pleasure." But not HAPPINESS. 

In the ancient philosophical traditions of Greece and Rome, true happiness was a matter of discovering the ways of purpose, personal development of one's potential, growth in virtue and living an integrated life. The Hebrew tradition called it WISDOM. The New Testament moved to profound and beautiful ways of understanding wisdom in the presence and person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Word now embodied and dwelling with us... soon to be dwelling within us.

Of all people, I believe Christians should be the most thoughtful, life-embracing, love-demonstrating, purpose-enjoying, truth-reflecting people around. 

John Calvin still provides one of the best summaries. Paraphrased: True wisdom is truly knowing God and truly knowing yourself. Knowing yourself truly depends on knowing God truly.

May you find time to daily know God and know yourself.
May you make the time to talk to God about the great things that matter most.
May you have the time to talk to your heart about those same things.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International