The True Self and the False Self

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde.

True Self False Self

People are complicated. They cannot be reduced to simple categories, as if an individual person can be neatly labeled as good or bad, nice or naughty, magnificent or mean, altruistic or selfish. No, people are wondrously intricate beings with a vast inner world of values and motivations. The reality of humanity is that we are a befuddling mix of virtue and vice with capabilities of much greater good than we realize along with an unfortunate capacity for heinous words and actions in the world. We are both blessed with the enduring mark of God’s image and cursed with not acknowledging our inherent worth through using cheap parlor tricks to prove we matter to others. As a result of these two often competing realities, we all tend to inhabit a sort of spiritual schizophrenia which vacillates between the true self and a false self.

What is the true self?

The true self is a person’s pursuit of realizing their own potential of gifts and abilities to be used for the common good of all. The true self embraces authenticity, vulnerability, and courage in their desire for growth and development of the inner person. The true self is open, being curious about self and others. Wanting to realize the full implications of God’s image within them, the true self is free to explore the vast potential of good which resides inside. The true self loves others from a place of invitation and patience. The true self is a master of one’s own inner wisdom and, so, has ability to rest and have peace.

What is the false self?

The false self is a person’s compulsion to achieve an idealized form of themselves. Such a self seeks the adulation of others since they lack awareness of their true self. The false self holds on to secrets, avoids emotions, and seeks perfection. The false self is closed, being afraid that others might reject them, if they knew the true self. Thus, the tragedy of the false self is that – in seeking self-protection – they do not find the self-realization and love they long for. Obsessively attempting to present an image to the world of having it all put together, the false self does not risk being brave. Instead, it fears others might see the bad within them, and so, judge and reject them. The false self uses love to manipulate others to love them back. The false self has no mastery of self because it attempts to become a master of a small world over others. The false self is never at rest and obsessively moves from one project to another.

Why does a person have a false self?

When someone has a great deal of inner stress, they might become estranged or alienated from their true self. For example, if someone has experienced trauma, they might direct their energy toward molding themselves into an idealized self. The hope of such a misadventure is to become impervious to any further trauma and pain. In short, the false self seeks power over others through doing everything the right way all the time so that they can feel a sense of security, superiority, and/or control in every situation.

How do I realize the true self?

The following is by no means an exhaustive list of connecting with our true selves. Indeed, you will likely come up with many more ways. After all, you have potentialities within you which I do not possess!

  1. Pay attention to your spiritual self. Just as our physical spine supports us and we need to take good care of it, so we have a spiritual spine which supports us when we need it – that is, if we pay attention to it and maintain good habits of self-care.
  2. Believe in the inherent good you possess – that it will eventually win and have the day. The image of God permanently resides within us; the curse of the fallen world does not. Have faith that goodness will prevail in your life.
  3. Focus primarily on exploring your true self through a positive plan; and, only secondarily focus on combating the false self. Compulsively trying to suppress the false self is, ironically, giving it power to call the shots in your life.
  4. Develop new habits and routines which are life-giving for you. Avoid implementing long lists of do’s and don’ts which are cumbersome and burden your soul with an unnecessary heavy load. A good rule of thumb here is that if your plan and routines are serving you well, then you are probably on a healthy path. If you find yourself constantly a slave to your routines, then you are serving the plan and are likely on an unhealthy road.
  5. Create a safe space for yourself in which your true self can arise. This means developing healthy rhythms of giving and receiving love; and, sharing your story and listening to others share their stories. And these occur when we have a safe space to inhabit. Safe spaces typically don’t fall into our laps. We need to take some initiative to find them.
  6. Take your emotions seriously. Many people have learned from their family of origin and/or their church or faith community that thoughts are more important than feelings; and, to not show emotions or even really acknowledge them. This, perhaps more than any other reason, pushes a person toward pursuing an idealized false self. In truth we are emotional creatures and our feelings are significant, valid, and vital. As we take those feelings seriously through talking about them and sharing them with trusted individuals, our true self begins to emerge.
  7. Seek support through finding groups who share your desire for self-realization and discovering persons who model what you are looking for. For example, for me, Jesus Christ is the ultimate model. When tempted with a devil’s pact for achieving salvation through self-idealization, Jesus did not take it. Instead, he chose the hard road of self-realization and was satisfied doing the will of God.

Some quotes on realizing the true self:

“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.” – Anonymous

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” — Brené Brown

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland

“The path to great confidence is not in becoming invincible, flawless, and seemingly perfect. But rather, it is in embracing your humanity, in all its messy glory and tender vulnerability.” – Aziz Gazipura

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” – Carl Jung

“Live life as though nobody is watching and express yourself as though everyone is listening.” – Nelson Mandela

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“The freedom to be yourself is a gift only you can give yourself. But once you do, no one can take it away.” – Doe Zantamata

The Sixth Sense of Spirituality

newborn baby

There are times you have no explanation for what is happening.  There are no real words to describe the experience you went through.  That’s because your five senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound), although alert and reliable with taking-in all kinds of sensory data, are simply inadequate to explain the transcendent situation.

I was once talking with an agnostic person who became a father for the first time.  He was fresh off the incredible experience of being in the room with his wife when she gave birth to their son.  Bill (not his real name) was flush with enthusiasm.  He took in the sight of his newborn baby boy, held him and touched him for the first time, and joyfully listened to his very first screams of new life in this great big world.  Bill described it all to me with such awe.  Then he said something to me that I haven’t forgotten: “I don’t know how to explain it, Tim.  Something spiritual happened when my son was born, something I can’t put into words.  All I can say is that I experienced something that was not of this world.”

Something not of this world.  That was Bill’s way of saying that he had no mental categories from which to draw from to give any kind of sensory explanation to the awesome reality of being right there in childbirth.  Our five senses do not tell the whole story.  As important as our ability to taste, see, touch, smell, and hear is, there are other ways of knowing and experiencing life.

Faith and spirituality are the sixth sense which enable us to discern and know things about ourselves, this world, and God – that we would not know with only our five senses.  There is a spiritual reality that transcends the physical.  The soul, whether we acknowledge we have one or not, is the place of communion with this unseen reality.  The inner person is where we meet-up with God and find a vast world of spiritual resources which boggle the five senses.  Somehow, we know this is true, even though we cannot explain it.

Jesus said, “The Spirit is the one who gives life! Human strength can do nothing.”  In other words, God is Spirit and he gives meaning, connection, relationship, and even physical life.  Human abilities cannot ultimately do this.  Yes, we do have biological explanations for human attraction, marriage, and where babies come from.  But this is not the whole story.  There is a transcendent reality behind it all that gives life meaning and purpose.

God reaching for humanity

There are times, once-in-awhile, when the unique, the astonishing, and the beautiful grab us.  Our souls spring to life.  We “see” the transcendent, and get an awesome glimpse of this place where the physical and the spiritual “touch.” We “taste” that the Lord is good, and “hear” the call to a deeper experience of recognizing the care and compassion of Christ.  We take in a deep breath and “smell” the aroma of him who created us in his image and likeness.

Let your senses draw in all the wonderful information it can.  But don’t stop there.  Allow your soul to drink in the spiritual, and feed your inner person with Jesus Christ, who saves us from the sinful and the mundane, and lifts us to the world of the Spirit where there is life, hope, and infinite love.

On the Need for Metaphysicians

metaphysician

Hospitals and health clinics are probably not on your A-list of fun places to hang out.  But you go.  Maybe begrudgingly, and perhaps because your spouse or significant other insisted or even made threats.  You and I go because we recognize the need.  When there is a change in our health, or an emergency arises, or even because we understand its good to get an annual physical, we take the time out of our lives to go.  What’s more, we in the U.S. are blessed with some of the best healthcare in the world.  You know the importance and the need for competent physicians who have a good bedside manner.

All of that is for our bodies.  Yet, we are not one-dimensional blobs of protoplasm who walk around needing our cells fixed once-in-awhile.  We are living breathing human beings with as much need for doctors of the soul as we need doctors for the body.  To ignore that we need competent “metaphysicians” [more than just the physical] with a good bedside manner is to not recognize the high value of the unseen inner person.

In some ways I feel like the old country doctor you see in Westerns – patching up people who got shot in the street in a gunfight – and getting paid with a bushel of apples or a basket of eggs.  I admit I would much rather operate (pun intended) more like the modern-day family physician who insists on annual physicals, med checks, and makes good referrals to other competent professionals.

Imagine with me if you saw as much importance to go to your local pastor to get an adjustment for your soul as you did going to your local chiropractor for a back adjustment; if you believed there was value in scheduling an annual “metaphysical” on your calendar; and, if you were faithful to take some needed biblical medicine every day and come in every so often to your soul doctor for a check to see how it was all going.

I can hear some of your objections.  Yes, I know that there are a great many metaphysical quack pastors out there who only give unhelpful panaceas and have questionable educational credentials.  But that doesn’t take away from your need to find a good metaphysician and stick with him/her.  They are out there, and there are a lot of good ones.

Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body…” (Matthew 10:28).  It’s important and necessary to care for your body; to address disease; to do the things necessary to restore your health through medication, surgery, and/or therapy.  It is equally important to care for your soul; to address the sickness of your heart; and to do the things necessary to restore your spiritual health through metaphysical therapy.

You need to schedule an appointment – maybe with your physician – but also, and just as necessary with your metaphysician.  Even if you’re feeling fine.  Get that annual metaphysical and catch any warning signs of danger in the future of your spiritual health and well-being….  What are you waiting for?