The Lie That Grew From Self-Ignorance

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  Is the same person that others around you see?  The way we see ourselves is very important because we are all good at playing a role.  We live a life that is expected of us and most of us completely ignore the reality of who we are inside.  It is something that we learned early on in life and we developed a persona to deal with our environment, but also to elicit the responses from people we found benefited us the most.  We learned to be someone to fit into the world we live in.

The problem isn’t that we developed this persona but that we became so accustomed to it we completely ignored the reality within.  And the person we were created to be needs to be expressed.  But as long as we ignore our life inside in favor of the life we are accustomed to living and measuring up to people’s expectations of us we can never truly be happy or healthy.  Do we really know ourselves?  Or is the person you think you know just an illusion you have built?  The person we tell ourselves we are often hides the person that we really are.  And that opens the door to what the church has called “secret sins.”

I recently read “Consider the way a lack of self-knowledge affected the life of a well-known pastor and his congregation. No one would have doubted this man’s knowing of God—at least before his very public downfall. He had built a very successful ministry around his preaching, and there was no reason to suspect that he did not personally know the truths he publicly proclaimed. Nor was there any obvious reason to question his knowing of himself. Anyone who thought about the matter would probably have judged his self-understanding to be deep. His sermons often included significant self-disclosure, and he seemed to know how to be vulnerable before God.

But as for many of us, all of that was more appearance than reality. The self this pastor showed to the world was a public self he had crafted with great care—a false self of his own creation. Between this public self and his true experience lay an enormous chasm. Both that chasm and his inner experience lay largely outside his awareness. Suddenly the gap between his inner reality and external appearance was exposed. Things that he did not know or accept about himself welled up within him and shattered the illusion his life represented. Lust led to sexual involvement with a woman he was counseling, just as greed had earlier led to misuse of church funds. As these things became public, the lie that was his life imploded. It was a lie he had lived before his family, closest friends, congregation, God and himself. It was a lie that grew from the soil of self-ignorance.” Benner, David G. (2009-09-20). The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery (p. 21). InterVarsity Press.

God is interested in who we really, without all the masks and with all the warts and scars.  It is who we really are the He died to redeem.  Not the proper, got it all together, person we masquerade to those around us.  And a lot of the circumstances we find ourselves in are often God trying to bring the real us up to the surface.  Only when we recognize ourselves for who we are can we truly begin to change.  Only when we see ourselves for who we truly are can we see the effect our lives and choices are having and begin to make some real adjustments.

Our lives can change under the hand of God and we can become who we were created by God to be not who our circumstances created us to be.  But it is up to us to decide if we are going to take an honest look at ourselves and see what is truly inside.  God is waiting for us to do just that.  And if we will begin to open those locked doors in our hearts we will find that He is right there already waiting for us to open the door and walk in.  He will meet us in that moment and we can come to know Him more.  I can’t promise you that it is an easy journey to begin, or that is will be without pain.  I can only promise you the rewards will be worth the effort if we allow the illusion to fade and the reality of who we are to come into the light.

The Importance of Personal Values

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
We are all faced with many questions and decisions each and every day.  We are called upon to determine the direction our life takes minute by minute from the time we awake to the time we return to sleep.  What is it that guides your decisions?
Many people determine their decisions based on the situation they are currently facing.  Others simply make the choice that best suits their current desires.  Still many others allow friend or family to make their decisions for them.  How do you make your decisions?  What do you fall back on when your world is in difficulty and the pressure is on?  How do you determine what you are willing to do and where you want to go when the stakes are high?
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ― Roy Disney
What you value is important because that will determine what you are willing to do and what you are willing to sacrifice in your life.  And once you know your values you can then decide easier what will best fit your values.  When you determine your values you decide for yourself what success looks like for you.  You can then be an immense success as a stay at home mom, even when the world wants you to be a leader of a fortune 500 company.  Success doesn’t mean that you are incredibly wealthy.  Success is determined by living life according to what you determined was important.  What do you value?  What are you building your life on?
You may determine that family is of great importance and wealth is very low.  This will allow you to decide what job you may be willing to take and how many hours of overtime you are willing to work.  You may determine that financial gain is most important and you will make decisions accordingly.  What you value arises from who you are and gives voice to the person you are becoming.  And if you don’t determine your values yourself, others will determine them for you.  Society, family, friends, employers are all clamoring to push their values on you.  And if you don’t have your own values to push back with you will become what they want you to become instead of who you are.
Determining what your personal values are isn’t as complicated as it sounds.  It will require you to sit quietly and do some thinking and writing, but it isn’t complicated.

First figure out what is important to you.  And make a list

  • There are many things we do that are important to others
  • What is important to you personally

Second think about why the things on your list are important to you

  • Some things are important to us simply because they are expected of us or we were told they were important
  • Some things we adopted from our parents, or mentors or other people we respected but we never took the time to figure out why
  • You need to decide if they are actually important to you, and if they are going to be something you build your life around you will need to know why they are important

Third work with your list and refine it.

  • Many of the things that are important which you wrote down will fit together.
  • Narrow you focus and shorten your list.  You want something you can use to guide your life, not a novel to carry around to read before every decision.  “For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs.” Simon Sinek
  • If your life isn’t spent living out your values they are not your values

If we will work with knowing what we value, and how we define success we can live lives full of purpose and discover and live our lives to our fullest potential.  With a little work and heart searching we can find out what is most important to us so that we are able to chart our course even when the storms are at their worst.

Values are extremely important.  Do you know what yours are?

Knowing Me as I Am

We are all the sum total of a number of various parts.  Our personalities are never made up of one thing.  We all have dominate personality traits and subordinate traits.  We have traits that function well under pressure and those that function well when things are calm.  Not one of us can say we are one thing and one thing only.  Even those most talkative extrovert needs and wants to be quiet and alone at times.  It is within everyone of us.

maninpiecesThe problem with our traits is we often categorize them and decide which ones we like and which ones we don’t like.  We try to set aside and forget about the traits we don’t like, and work to enhance the ones that we do.  We have parts of ourselves that we build our whole persona on and completely ignored and neglected others.

“If, for example, I only know my strong, competent self and am never able to embrace my weak or insecure self, I am forced to live a lie. I must pretend that I am strong and competent, not simply that I have strong and competent parts or that under certain circumstances I can be strong and competent. Similarly, if I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty.”

Start reading this book for free: http://amzn.to/1VW4TbM

When we separate and ignore parts of ourselves we think that we are helping ourselves and getting rid of what we feel is negative about us.  But we take away from ourselves when we do.  And the parts we ignore don’t ever actually go away.  They just simmer out of our sight, forgotten and ignored.  We think we have dealt with them and they are gone but they haven’t gone and they are not getting weaker.  In fact out of sight they have begun to build strength and will one day burst forth somewhere.  Just like a volcano erupts when it finds a weak spot, so the parts of ourselves we ignore will come out.  And they will usually come out in a destructive form.

Many addictions that people suffer from can sometimes be traced to parts of ourselves that we have shut down and ignored.  Parts of us that were important parts of ourselves.  David Benner wrote There is enormous value in naming and coming to know these excluded parts of self. My playful self, my cautious self, my exhibitionistic self, my pleasing self, my competitive self and many other faces of my self all are parts of me, whether I acknowledge their presence or not.  Christian spirituality involves acknowledging all our part-selves, exposing them to God’s love and letting him weave them into the new person he is making. To do this, we must be willing to welcome these ignored parts as full members of the family of self, giving them space at the family table and slowly allowing them to be softened and healed by love and integrated into the whole person we are becoming.”

In order for us to be whole we need to discover the parts of ourselves that we have cut off and rejected, and begin to understand ourselves as a total picture, not just the design we were trying to become.  Our whole being was something that Jesus thought was worth dying for.  Everything we are including the parts we reject is part of who we were created to be.

The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self—the real me. But, master of delusion that I am, I have trouble penetrating my web of self-deceptions and knowing this real me. I continually confuse it with some ideal self that I wish I were.”

If we are to truly discover who we are we need to see all the parts of ourselves as important and valuable.  Only then can God show us how He designed us to be and only then can we actually become all we were meant to be.

“You can never be other than who you are until you are willing to embrace the reality of who you are. Only then can you truly become who you are most deeply called to be.”

 

Transformation through acceptance

transformationWe all know things about ourselves that need to change.  And many times we have even struggled to change them.  At times our effort is successful, and other times we fight to change things about ourselves and end up discouraged by our lack of success.  There are things that our loved ones tell us need to change just to add to our list of things we struggle to become.  Everyone of us can compile a list if we think about it of things that we don’t like about ourselves and want to change.

The list is endless and as diverse as we are.  Everything from weight issues and body types, to personality quirks.  Our lists include addictions and behaviors.   Some behaviors are learned and we have developed them as we seek to be included in our world, or to protect ourselves from it.  Regardless of  where you grew up, or your social status in life you have a list.  There are a lot of things about ourselves that we don’t like.  And many of them we have hidden away securely so that we don’t have to see them and hopefully no one else finds out about them.  Unfortunately our hiding them away has not helped us in any way.

“Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted—even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance.” And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are—before you start your self-improvement projects!”  David G. Benner

In order for us to truly change we need to see ourselves as we are, and accept ourselves as we are.  This can be very difficult for us to do because there is a lot of ourselves that we find unacceptable and fight to guard and keep hidden.  This behavior has caused many of the struggles we now face, because a behavior, or part of ourselves that we keep locked away does not go away and it doesn’t get weaker.  In fact the behaviors and traits we hide away get stronger and more aggressive, and when they break free and get loose they always appear in greater intensity and there is often a disaster.  It is like trying to bottle up a volcano.  It may appear to be calm and serene on the surface, but what we ignore is brewing in intensity and will eventually explode and it always explodes away from where we hid it.

Which is why we often don’t connect our behaviors to their cause, and we end up fighting the symptoms of an issue and never deal with the root.  And this is why we don’t have lasting changes in our lives.  As we accept ourselves regardless of what we find we can then see what actually needs to change and begin the healing or learning process which allows the changes to happen.

All of this is made possible as we learn to accept ourselves as God accepts us.  For many people acceptance is a myth because they do not know the love and acceptance of God.  We have conditions on God’s approval and love for us, and it is always based on our performance.  We feel if we can just be good enough, and do right enough God will love us.  And this behavior is completely against scripture.  Romans 5:8 says He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready.” MSG  God isn’t waiting for us to be acceptable to love us, He loves us unconditionally just as we are.  We cannot do anything to earn His love, and His love for us cannot be diminished or increased. 

We need to allow God to reveal His love to us and truly understand what it means to be unconditionally loved, and to experience this love personally.  This was what Paul was praying for when he wrote  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT

As we experience this love and acceptance it allows us the ability to look into the areas of life that we have been unwilling or unable to look.  And as we do we will find God there waiting for us each and every time, and the pain of the experience will be surrounded and invaded by the augustinelove that God has for us, and we will find ourselves knowing ourselves, and in the process we can know God more as well.  We can only change as we allow our lives to come under inspection and open the doors to the things we have kept locked away and allow the love and life of God to fill those areas of our hearts.

The false self and God

true-identity.jpgWe were created for relationship.  Each and every person has built into us a need for others.  We need relationships in order to be healthy and grow.  Unfortunately we have given into the idea of independence and we can go it alone.  This was not the plan that God had in mind for us.  God created us for relationship and the primary relationship was meant to be with Him.  Everyday God would come and walk through the garden and interact and share with Adam and Eve.  And even though things got screwed up by the choices they made that removed us from relationship with God, He never let go of this one thing.  We were created for relationship, and God deeply desires a personal relationship with everyone.

Our problem is we don’t know ourselves and we are not willing to look within and see what is inside us we end up hiding from God.  We take large portions of ourselves and hide them away for fear of rejection, or because they are parts of ourselves that we don’t like, or are uncomfortable with.  We live a life based on the image of who we want people to see, or what I have begun to understand as a false self, or false identity.  We have learned to portray ourselves in a way that seems favorable and ignores anything that is uncomfortable about ourselves.  And every moment of every day of our life God wanders in our inner garden, seeking our companionship. The reason God can’t find us is that we are hiding in the bushes of our false self.

David Benner wrote “The more we identify with our psychologically and socially constructed self, the more deeply we hide from God, ourselves and others. But because of the illusory nature of the false self, most of the time we are not aware that we are hiding. Coming out of hiding requires that we embrace the vulnerabilities that first sent us scurrying for cover. As long as we try to pretend that things are not as they are, we choose falsity.”

The problem is we don’t always recognize our false identity because we have lived with it for so long that we have become comfortable with and live according to who we made ourselves to be.  But that very thing we use to protect ourselves from others ends up separating us from God who deeply loves us.  We end up not knowing ourselves, and as a result we miss out on knowing God.  The worst part is we don’t even recognize that we don’t know God, because we design Him to suit ourselves.  So we think we know Him and we follow Him, but we are following a “god created in our image.”

What is worse is the very thing we use to hide ourselves ends up creating this very thing.  “Having first created a self in the image of our own making, we then set out to create the sort of a god who might in fact create us. Such is the perversity of the falspuppet1e self.”  We then pursue a life we are comfortable with and allows us to never examine ourselves to deeply, and we never really have to change.   Our false self will keep us in bondage and we will be happy to allow it until we realize that isn’t what God designed us for.

If we are willing to allow God to show us who we really are, and begin to work from there we can encounter the true God and see our lives transformed.  But it begins by being wiling to see ourselves differently.  If we close the door and refuse to look inward we lose the ability to truly know God.  Knowing God will always cause us to see ourselves and to know ourselves.  We cannot change what we do not know, and if we never allow God to reveal our true nature we will never allow Him to change us.

Even though it may be uncomfortable and even painful we must be willing to allow God to remove our shell and our false identity.  It begins by asking God to help you see what makes you feel most vulnerable and most like running for cover.  Our false self will try to protect itself and keep you hidden, but we cannot allow it.  The places we feel the most vulnerable is the very place that God wants to open our hearts to His presence and love, but He can only do this if we allow Him in.  So we need to ask God to help us look inside and to help us see the things that we use to defend ourselves from feeling vulnerable.  Then we need to ask God to prepare you to trust enough to let go of these fig leaves of your personal style.

The riches of God’s presence await us if we are willing to open ourselves up to His touch.

Unmasking our false self Pt 2

true-identity.jpgLast time we looked at the nature of our false self.  In every person there is a true identity which is a gift from God when we were created and not something that we have to create, and a false identity which we have learned to become by our lifestyle, upbringing, and circumstances.

Our sense of identity is built up over the years as we grow.  It begins as we discover that our behaviors create responses in others that if worked correctly will get us what we desire.  These behaviors are added to by the early realization that we can create ourselves so that we are seen in a positive light and helps us maintain our self-esteem.  And so our identity becomes something that we create around ourselves.

“Our basic style is often built around the things that were reinforced for us as children. It usually starts with the things we do well. Over time our repertoire of competencies grows, and we learn to live in a way that we think will work for us. This becomes “our way,” or what we simply think of as who we are.”  David G. Benner  Our abilities or lack of abilities form our sense of identity.  Those around us challenged us to achieve, or made us feel we could never be good enough, or we were told we were  a failure.  These and many other things created in us our sense of identity early in life, and have become the basis and foundation for our current behaviors.

Identifying our false self can be difficult if we are not willing to see ourselves differently than we currently do.  Because the false self is a facsimile and is not a secure state it can be very uncomfortable to look inside ourselves.  Our false self and the sense of security it brings us can be hard to let go of.  But the reality of who we are, and the great blessing that comes as we discover ourselves and the resulting sense of peace and security completely outweigh the risks of looking inside.

There are some trustworthy clues to discovering our false self if we are willing to look.  One of the first clues is a sense of defensiveness.  “Because of its fundamental unreality, the false self needs constant bolstering. Touchiness dependably points us to false ways of being. And the more prickly a person you are, the more you are investing in the defense of a false self.
Some people bristle easily if they are not taken seriously, thus betraying a need for others to see the self-importance that is so obvious to them. Others take themselves too seriously, perhaps being unable to laugh at themselves. Both reactions suggest ego inflation. Others have learned to mask these outward displays of defensiveness, but inner reactions of annoyance or irritation still point toward the presence of a false self.”

Touchiness and pettiness are fundamental characteristics of a false identity.  And the things that bother us most about others, our pet peeves, point to the falseness in our own identity.  “If laziness in others is what really bothers me, there is a good chance that discipline and performance form a core part of the false self that I embrace with tenacity. If it is playfulness and spontaneity in others that I find most annoying, then seriousness may be a central part of the self I protect and seek to project. If it is moral disregard that is particularly irritating in others, my false self is probably built around moral rectitude and self-righteousness. And if emotionality in others is what I most despise, emotional control is probably central to the script I have chosen to live.”

Compulsive behaviors are also an indicator of a false identity.  Our false identity is rooted in the perception that our value is dependent on external things like owning the latest and greatest things, or being the best at something.  As a result we compulsively pursue the things we see create value and security for us and preserve our sense of identity.

The constant pursuit of a false identity is the root of our unhappiness.  As we discover and grow into our true identity we find fulfillment, meaning and happiness because we are living life as we were meant to live.  And our value comes not from external things but on the value that we have as people.  As we begin to value and understand ourselves it opens the door to us valuing and understanding the people we come in contact with each and every day.

But it begins by being willing to take an honest look at ourselves even if we may not like what we see, and being willing to see some of the ways we live as actually supporting a false identity and not who we really are after all.  “The bondage in any false self is the bondage of having to keep up the illusion.”  David G. Benner

Unmasking our false self pt.1

image

Everyone is on a search for authenticity.  It is something that everyone has a deep desire for.  We may not know what it looks like when we see it, but we all have an expectation and idea of what it may be like.  It is like the idea of perfection.  Know one really knows what perfection looks or feels like, because no one except Jesus has ever attained it, but we have an idea of what it would be like.  What we know about authenticity is how we give it our best shot to scramble after what we think it is and what will give us fulfillment personally.

We seek after authenticity and seek a way for living that leads us to happiness.  Unfortunately not all routes we may take are equally authentic.  It stands to reason that if there is a true self we are working to become, that there is a false self we can also be.  “If there is a way of being that is true to my deepest self, then there are also many other ways that are false.” David Benner.

It didn’t take us long in life to discover that we needed to look after ourselves.  Early on we began to develop a plan of coping with life and achieving our definition of happiness.  We began to figure out what made us feel good about ourselves and we worked at trying to fulfill those needs for love, survival, power and control.  This is where our basic identity began to form, and the way we lived and the experiences we had began to form in us an identity and a way of seeing the world around us.  It also began to form in us the deepest desires which will drive us throughout our lives.  Many of the behaviors we now have are a simple result of our souls searching for its needs to be met.  And a lot of it is subconscious, because we don’t even recognize the behaviors for what they are.

We grow up learning what our strengths are, or the things we thing we do well that bring us the things, or feelings we are looking for.  But some grow up learning what their weaknesses are, struggling to simply enter the world feeling like they have any value at all.  These feelings and behaviors make up our sense of identity.  And many times the identity we portray is not who we are at all.  It is just the way we handle life and we have lived it for so long we never question it at all.  It is something we simply accept, and expect others to as well.  The problem is we can often see the false identity in others, but it is very hard to spot in our own lives.  Because it is our “normal” approach to life that we simply accept is the way we all live.  It has become like the air we breathe.  We are so accustomed to it we are no longer aware of it.  In order for us to change we have to be willing to see ourselves as different from we see ourselves currently to be.  Our self-image and our desire to hold on to it, or be willing to let it go will decide whether we can break free from the molds we were put into, or we will continue to live in bondage to a way of living and seeing life.  A bondage to a self that was created for us and is not who we are.

Saul is a perfect example in scripture of someone with a false self-identity.  He was fanatically zealous and ruthless, consumed by personal ambition and terrorized the early Christian church.  After he encountered Jesus his life was completely changed, and he saw himself completely different.  He had exchanged his image of self for a new one.  He came to understand who he was, and who he was in Christ.

The core of our false self is “the belief that my value depends on what I have, what I can do, and what others think of me.” Basil Pennington.  Thomas Merton describes it as “… winding experiences around myself… like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and the world as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.”  Our false identity is always wrapped up in something other than us.  We make ourselves feel important by what we do, or how others think about us.  We place a value on ourselves by how many friends we have on Facebook, or how many people agree with our opinions.  “Because it is hollow at the core, the life of a false self is a life of excessive attachments.  Seeking to avoid implosion and non-being, the false self grasps for anything that appears to have substance and then clings to these things with the tenacity of a drowning man clutching a life ring.”  And so we have the race “keeping up with the Jones’ ”

This isn’t much of a way to live and without the willingness to see ourselves as different that we are we will never be able to break free of the cycle and discover our true identity.