I asked last week, “What is your story that keeps you enslaved in “Egypt?” This question digs into where our identity lies: in the false self or in our own true self. Let’s look at the differences between them. The true self is the deeper self, the one that is deeply connected to God, the one that holds the agenda for our lives, the one that God created for a beautiful and distinct purpose, the one God hopes that we will realize during this lifetime. The false self or the conditioned self is the self that is acculturated, that is shaped by circumstances of birth and parentage, that is taught by the culture how to be in this world. For example, we Americans have a way of being in this world, a way of doing things. If you belong to a religion, you have also learned a way of being and doing things in the context and interpretation of the religion’s teachings. And your region where you grew up had a big influence on you, too; whether that region is the Mid-West or the South or the West Coast or the Northeast, you learned a way of being in the world that is natural to that area. And last, but not least, your family also shaped who you are and what is acceptable in this world. And, course, then there are your genes and talents and interests. Add to these influences any trauma, disappointment, neglect, abuse or other sufferings and you can see how shaped we are by the cultures of our childhood from the biggest, our nation, to the smallest, our family of origin. It’s the influences of all these cultures that we grow up in that forms our false self.
The false self is not in and of itself bad or to be denied or to be forsaken; rather it is to become a part of the true self, to become subsumed or incorporated into the true self. The problem with the false self is that it gets in the way of the true self when a person is totally identified with his false self; it is like a solid opaque cover over, a heavy blanket, if you will, that obscures the real self. If we are always seeing from the false self point of view, then we do not see clearly; the false self is like a smudged lens; it holds its point of view no matter what reality it encounters denying the larger reality. When we live in the false self identity, we will not find happiness or joy or any lasting satisfaction or purpose, because how we live and what we do are not grounded in the true self’s needs and purpose. We need to be tied into our true self and identified with it. Otherwise we are like a mouse in a cage, always looking for more and more of whatever he can get, and yet trained for the purposes of the lab, but the mouse never sees that he is living in a cage, a limited, unsatisfactory life.
It is only when we dig deeper into our lives, into the depths of who we are that we begin to experience a satisfaction and sense of all-rightness in everything we do, that we see how limited our lives have been. The difference between living from the false self and living from the true self is like the surface of the ocean versus its depths. All the waves, and winds, the white caps and the storms only affect the top fifteen or so feet of the ocean(except in a tsunami). Beneath this top layer of activity there are long, slow currents that seemingly go on forever. When we identify with the false self we are living in the busyness of that top fifteen feet, the surface of our lives; beneath that busyness and confusion lie the longer arcs of our lives, the deeply rooted life that just wants to emerge into the light. Living more deeply into our lives, we can still get caught up in the busyness of the surface activity sometimes, but we rest our identity in the deeper, truer self, so we always know who we are and what we are about, virtually unruffled by the surface activity. Living on the surface we are buffeted by the storms and energies of other people, of the culture; living deeply into our lives allows us the freedom to be deeply rooted in who we really are and unmoved by the drama above.
For me this false self/true self conundrum is all about God. A person identifying with the false self can only allow a bit of God into his/her life and that bit has to be contained and controlled, so that it doesn’t impinge on the priorities of the false self. That person is more apt to be dutiful than loving, more apt to be pitying than compassionate. The person identifying with the true self is actually resting in God, in the larger reality, so she experiences a measure of freedom to be herself as she was created to be. A larger sense of freedom comes from the partnership with God in which God bears the larger responsibility for the outcomes of his inspiration. The person living from his true self feels the love of God, lives and breathes it in, and then pours out that love as it was given to him.
To ponder over the weekend: how do you identify yourself: with your false self and all you’ve been taught in this world? Or with the true self and all that God has given you?