I just finished reading the chapter entitled “The Impostor” from Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. It is about the false self — the shadow personality or projected self that we all have.
The false self always wants to look better than it is – better than it feels. It wants to project an image of being more successful, smarter, more courageous, more confident, more competent, and more emotionally healthy. But it is hiding behind an illusion of its own making.The ability to present our true selves is critical in dating and marriage. How can I really love you if I don’t know who you are down deep. If I don’t really know you, then who and what am I saying “yes” to at the marriage alter? This is one of the reasons why taking a reasonable amount of time before becoming engaged is essential. Can you really say you have gotten past the projected image to the real person?
It is always unpleasant to be confronted with our failings and dishonesty, and harder yet to admit them. It is an even more difficult task to actually dig for them. Is the purpose of that kind of exercise to lead us down a path of self condemnation?
Not at all!
Honest self examination should lead us to humility and to self forgiveness. It should bring us to a place where we can accept the reality of our flaws without becoming overwhelmed by them. The failure to do so will often result in hostility towards others and/or hatred or some other form of violence towards our self.
Accepting the existence of our false self does not mean becoming resigned to living out of our false self. Rather, it means being aware that there is an internal tug-of-war going on that wants to put image ahead of honesty. Let’s face it; it is painful to let others see our uglier, but more honest side. But will they truly know us until they do? Can we accept others’ imperfections until we make peace with our own or will we just become judgmental and harsh with them?
Again, the key is in self forgiveness just as God has forgiven us.
We can move towards maturity and growth and honesty and away from fear, anxiety and self protection when we know that we are acceptable and loved. Intimacy with others grows as we reveal our true selves. Vulnerability with safe people produces closeness, and closeness lets us experience love and acceptance.
Drawing near to God may be our first step in shrinking the false self. He accepts us just as we are, and He loves us unconditionally. And He does so knowing us completely. When He is our focus, we begin to lose some of the need to hold on to our insecurities and defenses. We realize that He protects us and validates us and our identity shifts.
If there are obstacles in the way of your growth, there is always help available by reaching out.
It is always exciting when I come across a piece of simple wisdom. To me simple wisdom is something that is so obvious that it makes you smile that you didn’t put it into words first. As I was rereading a book this week (Close Calls by David Carder), I stumbled upon one of those.
What is this little gem of knowledge?
It is a list of things that keep a relationship vital. Simply put, they are those behaviors that came easy at the beginning, but may fall away as time progresses and life gets busy. According to the book, if we fail to provide these things to our partner, they become vulnerable to people outside of our relationship who might supply them.
Here are five things that Carder says we should continue to do to keep a partner happy.
- Accommodation – When you are first dating I’ll bet you make sure that you make time and space to accommodate the relationship. You might cancel other commitments and plan your life around being able to connect with your girl or guy. They are a priority in your life and they know it.
- Adoration – Isn’t it a great feeling to feel beautiful or handsome when your beloved looks at you – that they would rather be with you than anyone else? You spend extra effort making sure that you are worthy of the attention – and you melt when they respond positively.
- Admiration – Who doesn’t want to be looked up to? When I feel that from Nan, it makes me want to go the extra mile. It’s not easy being great, but when someone recognizes it in you it makes you want to hang around them more.
- Affirmation – For some folks there is no substitute for delicious words spoken to them. They light up when you tell them all the things that you love and appreciate about them – or how you respect what they do or who they are as a person.
- Affection – Physical connection is something that all living beings crave. It is why it is so hard to keep our hands off our partner when we are dating. It is a definite way to reassure your partner that you still love and care for them even after a lot of time has passed.
Have you gotten lazy in your relationship? I know I have and this is a great reminder.
I remember a time when Nanand I were facing some challenges. We had been married for more than a dozen years, but hadn’t entered into counseling yet. There were unresolved hurts that had built up over the years and significant breaks in our trust-bond. More and more we were silently (and sometimes not so silently) judging the relationship as poor. Poor moved to terrible, and at one point, terrible to nearly hopeless. Fortunately we entered counseling (me, kicking and screaming a bit.)
By the time we arrived in counseling we had done a good deal of rewriting the history of the relationship.
What do I mean? We traded our rose colored glasses for pairs of very dark ones. We mentally dragged out all the bad memories and suppressed all the good ones. This is very common with couples when they first enter into counseling after a lot of marital chaos. It is much easier to remember the difficult parts when you are in pain. But this filtering is very unhelpful when you are trying to get unstuck.
Every couples’ session that we do, we start out with affirmations. It reinforces the positive that exists (or existed) in every relationship. It reminds us why we got into the relationship in the first place. It brings a bit of balance to the counseling experience.
An injured person in particular will often be the one to rewrite their story. If they have already mentally begun to move themselves out the relationship they will be looking for “facts” to build their case. The goal is often to be able to say “It never was any good, anyway.”
If you find yourself doing this during tough times, try the following:
- Intentionally think of good times. Remember dates and celebrations and other significant events.
- Drag out the photo albums and pictures and try to connect with the good feelings.
- If you save greeting cards, read through them. If you have journals or diaries, go back to them and see what you find.
It is also possible to filter in the opposite direction. We can suppress the painful memories in the relationship in order to not face them. We accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. This is called denial, and can be dangerous. Battered people often do this. Some relationships may not be worth saving, even though the people involved are.
What about you? Are you guilty of rewriting history? What might you do to change that? As believers in God, we should always be seeking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.