Last night I had supper with a friend whose arrival in my life is one of the greatest joys of the past year...We were talking about the way the friendship had developed, pretty much from nowhere and about early impressions (wildly inaccurate!) -which led me to wonder, as I drove home, just how much these are coloured by our own ideas of ourselves.
I know, for example, that there are some things that I am really good at.
I know this mainly because I have lovely people around who tell me so, though every now and then I realise that actually, deep down, I know it because it is true .Generally, though, my own version of myself is of some rather helpless incompetent, who is nothing if not well-meaning, but who (in the manner of my godfather's black labrador when I was a child) is quite likely to overturn the furniture with one unconsidered wag of the tail...That anyone might ever take me seriously enough to trust me with their inner selves, as does seem to happen in ministry, is a source of almost as much surprise as delight. I know I'm loved by a galaxy of truly splendid people (you might be one of them) - but quite why they should do so remains a joyful mystery.
Maybe I'm right, and they are all just deeply deluded.
Maybe my own version of myself isn't as accurate as it might be.
Maybe even people who are quite bright and otherwise perceptive can have their blind spots.
Actually, today the evidence is weighed in favour of this third possibility.
Last month HS had an interview at Prestigious University, from which he returned disconsolate, convinced that he'd impressed no-one, least of all himself. He had good, achievable offers from his other universities, so we tried our hardest to put dreams to bed and reflect on just how happy HG is at her "other" university - clearly and unmistakeably the perfect place for her. We knew that he would hear for sure sometime in January, and this morning an envelope arrived with a tell-tale franking. Being a teenage boy, HS was of course fast asleep, so mother and siblings indulged in a frenzy of dithering on the landing...
Do we wake him, which seems cruel if the answer is "No"?
Do we allow him to sleep (but I'm supposed to be going out, and won't be safe to drive while my mind is taken up with the contents of an unopened letter at home)?
Will we actually manage to refrain from steaming open the envelope if he sleeps for much longer?
Our deliberations were halted when the slumberer awoke...and shortly afterwards a mighty shout rent the air of Privet Drive.
He shall go to the ball after all, and at his first-choice college too - provided he gets the grades. Clearly, when it comes to incisive self knowledge, HS is about as good at recognising his own worth as ....oh, far too many of us, really!