Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about the “False Self”. The Thomas Merton qoute that I posted a few posts ago has been ricocheting around inside of my being and it can sometimes lead to severe mind melt! Here’s an excerpt from that quote that reminds us of what we all contend with day in and day out:
“All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honour, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real.”
So then this leads me to ask the question, “What am I using to clothe my false self?” What I do? What I own? Approval from others?
For example, I play drums in a rock band. This rock band is somewhat successful and enjoys the benefits of many loyal fans who come to our concerts, buy our t-shirts and listen to our albums. My false self is affirmed nightly by loud cheers and clapping hands. Yet, if I am consider that there is a very real distinction between my false self and my real (S)elf, then I need to somehow rearrange how I identify with myself. I need to ignore or shed the validation my false self receives from the value systems of this world. And while this aspect of my false self that is wrapped up in what I do is a very big hurdle, it is only one aspect. It’s daunting. I find myself wondering if whether or not even the “noble” things that I do are to simply bolster my false self. Do I do good deeds in order to consider myself that I am a good deed doer? The line between selfishness and selflessness becomes unclear.
And if this distinction is real, then what in me constitutes my true Self? Merton writes, “My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love.” If this is the case, then my true self must in some way not be me but God in me. Pastor Shane preached about this several weeks ago. In Romans 8, Paul paints a picture of two opposing forces within each of us: Flesh and Spirit. As Shane put it, ego and essence. Or maybe we can say it this way: our true identity is our identity in Christ. Everything else, what we do, what we own, what we want to achieve, the way we look, how hard our band rocks, how many people attend our churches…….it’s all a myth. We can only be in tune to God’s will and freely receive God’s unconditional love for us if we stop allowing the value systems of this world influence our motives. To shed the ego and the world’s framework in which the ego thrives is to come face to face with the love of God already in you. Your true Self.