Category Archives: wholeness

The False Self

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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.

Loopholes

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In Christian circles we often talk about legalism or “living under the law” vs. “living under grace”.

Those who have been hurt, but have not fully embraced forgiveness, are often looking for justice. It is understandable from a human perspective. Then there is another side to the equation – those, because of their wrongdoings, who are trying to escape justice and receive mercy, or better yet, grace. That too is an understandable position.

  • Justice is getting what you deserve
  • Mercy is not getting bad things that you deserve (punishment or retribution)
  • Grace is getting good things that you absolutely do not deserve (unearned favor)

I really admire those who search the scriptures diligently so that they can fully follow God in the way they conduct themselves in life and relationships. But there is another way that scriptures can be used as well – as a rationalization to punish, control or avoid. This is where loopholes come into the picture.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a loophole as:

  1. An error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it.
  2. A means of escape; especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.

Are you looking for loopholes in the scripture to justify your wrong desires or behaviors?

In definition #2 above it clearly states that there is an intent in statutes or laws that is to be understood and followed. This is what law abiding or good-hearted people seek to incorporate into their personal life script. (For purposes of this discussion I am not talking about occasions where man’s laws and God’s laws are in conflict).

  • When seeking justice do you ignore the scriptures that call for forgiveness, mercy, turning the other cheek (and many more) in favor of “an eye for an eye”?
  • When trying to justify immoral sexual behaviors do you minutely examine words like “fornication” or “purity” or others hoping that God’s intent for us as Christians has been incorrectly interpreted by the church for centuries?
  • When wanting to blame, shame, criticize or control someone do you quote scriptures that speak about ‘iron sharpening iron” or “faithful are the wounds of a friend” or “confronting sin”? Are you truly concerned for them, or are you really trying to exercise power over them?

The Bible tells us that God is concerned about our hearts out of love for us. When our hearts aren’t right, our lives and our world is not right. Matters of justice are tricky and best left for God to deal with. It is said that we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. So, are you most interested in the “letter of the law” or “the intent of the law”?

Loopholes are our way of trying to return power and control to ourselves (leaning on our own understanding) instead of trusting that God’s ways are good.

Lazy or Perfectionistic?

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One of my less favorite domestic jobs is pulling weeds and caring for our somewhat unruly yard. I think I’ve felt that way most of my life even though once I get into it, it’s not that bad – almost enjoyable sometimes. I wonder if I am just lazy by temperament.

As I was working this morning I thought about the times where my dad was training me and one of his phrases came back.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all!”

That message was often delivered with anger and I ended up feeling inadequate. The belief that was formed was that I didn’t measure up, and so I guess at some point I kind of embraced his philosophy too well. If I couldn’t do something perfectly why do it at all? It makes certain tasks difficult for me to start, because I know I might fail to meet my internal standards. And that in turn triggers shame. It means defective, broken, unremarkable and inconsequential. So to avoid the shame, I procrastinate or ignore.

It happens often with these blog posts. I am aware that it is beneficial to post regularly and often, yet I struggle to sit down at the computer to write if I don’t have something on my heart that feels really significant.

I wonder if you are like me.

The way I overcome some of these issues is by forcing myself to act when I am nearing a deadline. I tell myself that I work better under pressure. That is probably partly true – that there is nothing like anxiety to focus one’s attention. But I probably don’t do better work as a result, and I certainly don’t provide margin for interruptions or unforeseen problems. And if they do appear, my anxiety can turn to anger or panic. And those two emotions can create relational problems.

One of the other downsides is that Nan has to live with my tendencies. Things don’t get attended to in a timely manner. Broken things don’t get fixed right away. Maintenance chores are often delayed way too long and It becomes frustrating for her and for me. This creates  another area of shame I have to deal with. I know the root cause is a form of anxiety, but awareness alone is not enough. Activating is required.

When shame is triggered there is likely to be an overreaction that follows. It might be projected outwards in a defensive or angry outburst, or it can be directed inward resulting in depression and feelings of low self worth. Neither reaction is helpful, obviously. I have found that talking through my shame issues helps me to change my beliefs and my maladaptive behaviors. I am much more able to self soothe and self accept.

It all comes down to grace. Grace for myself and grace from others. The more grace I experience, the more I will be able to break the power of shame and perfectionism. God does not expect me to be perfect, he expects me to be faithful, and to be an expression of His love and faithfulness – to love my neighbor and myself.

Am I lazy or perfectionistic? Probably both – but thank God for grace.