Very very well put David. I think you opened up and clarified the point quite nicely.
The comment on self reflection is very apt imo. It is something I try to do honestly, regardless of the results I get and what it may reflect of my own training or lack thereof. In the end the idea is to see yourself through a clear glass and accept whatever level on may have acquired and then move towards consistently doing what is necessary to improve upon wherever we are at the point of reflection.
Being objective in reflection is pretty important here also imho, since many of us can easily toss around folks during kata or demos but not so easily, or almost never during a bit of resistance. In this way we are challenged to admit whether we are truly embodying the principles of Aiki unconditionally or if there is condition to our ability to employ Aiki, such as a cooperative partner who is accustomed to our way of movement or someone who gives an easily telegraphed or non-threatening attack or someone who is not seriously driven to attack with intent.
In other words if the reflection is a poor one, don't break the mirror or paint a false image over the one that is there and stick around with your dojo mates who will always tell you how great your demos and kata are (regardless of the reality), but accept what is really there in humility and work to honestly improve towards the goal of achieveing spontaneous Aiki and deeply understanding and applying the principles of Aiki.
Just some more thoughts. You folks are giving some very good insights into this concept.