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.
One of my clients provoked me to consider the admonition in Scripture for Christians to not be unequally yoked. Most believers would agree that it is clear that it applies in marriage – that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. But what about dating someone who is in a very different spiritual place?
To begin with, what is a yoke? It is something that ties two things together, historically a piece of wood joining two working animals. It lets them pull together and share the load. The animals need to be well matched so that one does not work harder than the other. It also helps them to be going in the same direction.
What happens when we try to pull in different directions?
We will probably get stuck or be in conflict. We will struggle to move forward. Oftentimes what are in conflict are our morals and values. How will we spend our time? What will we watch on television or see at the movies? What do we consider fun? How will we spend our money? What are the physical boundaries on our relationship? What do we believe about cohabitation?
These same questions can largely be applied to friendships as well. I believe that too much rigidity in this area produces harshness, which is not consistent with our goal of loving people. But friendships can turn into dating relationships, so we must be careful to know where to draw the line. We can have very moral friends that agree with our values, but it breaks down when we get to spiritual matters. We would not want to be married to someone who does not share our faith, our passion for God or our commitment to the church.
So where does that leave us?
We must be very careful not to form romantic bonds with someone who is not aligned with our spiritual journey. That does not mean that they must experience God in the same way that we do – some relate best to God through worship music while others are deeply moved by the study of scripture. Still others are very contemplative in their style – but the focus and the goal is the same. We must be in agreement on the essentials of our faith.
I really feel for those who have difficultly finding dates, who are lonely, and welcome any connection with someone of the opposite sex. And I also feel sad for those who have formed unequal relationships that put them in a lot of conflict with their personal values, especially those who are married.
I would love to hear any comments you might have on this subject. Please use the comment box below.
Today I am going to post an excerpt from Tim Keller’s excellent book “The Meaning of Marriage”. It will be a startling revelation for some – as it was for me.
In Mark 11: 25, Jesus says that if you are praying, and you realize that you have something against someone, you must forgive him or her right there. Does that mean you should not confront the person? No, you should, since Jesus in Matthew 18— as well as Paul in Galatians 6 and elsewhere— tells Christians that if someone wrongs them, they should go to the person and discuss their sin. Wait, we say. The Bible says we are supposed to forgive people and then go and confront them? Yes! The reason we are surprised by this is almost always because we confront people who have wronged us as a way of paying them back. By telling them off, we are actually getting revenge. They made us feel bad and now we are going to make them feel bad, too. But this is absolutely deadly. The person you are confronting knows you are doing payback, and he or she will either be devastated or infuriated— or both. You are not really telling the truth for their sake; you are telling it for your sake, and the fruit of that will be grief, bitterness, and despair.
Jesus gives us the solution.
He says that Christians, knowing that they live only by the forgiving grace of God, must do the work of forgiving wrongdoers in their hearts and then go to confront them. If you do that, the confrontation will be so different. In other words, without the “compound”— the power of forgiving grace in your life— you will use the truth to hurt. The other person will either attack you back or withdraw. Your marriage will go either into a truth-without-love mode, with constant fighting, or a shallow love-without-truth mode, in which both partners simply avoid the underlying problems.
How different confrontations would be if we could follow Jesus’ words. How transformed marriages could be if we learned this lesson. I believe this would empower us to actually “speak the truth in love” instead of in anger or resentment.
For me this means intentionally praying for people who feel wronged by me, or who I am having feelings of resentment towards. It is not something that I naturally feel motivated to do. In fact, it is usually just the opposite. It all comes down to my willingness to be obedient to Christ.
What about you? Does this offend you or excite you?
Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (pp. 156-157). Penguin Group.