How often do you feel that a friend, colleague, or a spouse reveals their true self to you? The real person? Maybe you get glimpses at times when you think someone’s actions represent who they actually are. I wager that you have lots of beliefs about yourself and other people. You use these beliefs to indicate why people act in a certain way. If someone yells at you, you may forgive them because you know their life isn’t going so well. Or, you mistrust them because you feel they are angry about something you have done. Or, you might even think that their true self reflects their anger about everything, and you should have no contact with them. Accordingly, there are times when you believe that a person’s actions reflect the situation they are in or their current mental state.
I have trouble discerning the true self of others. This is an area that is part of the “I don’t know” category for me most of the time. There are plenty of times when I first meet someone that I decide we don’t connect, we are not on the same page, and I don’t spot anything about them that I like. There are times when I decide to dislike someone before I meet them. Then after a time, I grow to like them. I need the willingness to give them and me a period of adjustment, a pause if you will.
Human beings possess a host of qualities that are similar, but it is their unique combination that creates the individual and their singular true self. Mystics are not the only ones that can be in touch with their true self. Most believe that the true self is moral and good. It is the notion that everyone is born with instincts that differentiate the good from the evil. So, when people make changes in their behavior, we are more inclined to believe it reflects their true self when they change from doing something bad to something good than vice versa. When someone has been self-serving for a long period, but realizes that serving others is the better course, we believe they have gotten in touch with their true self.
We all have gifts that guide the true self: a zest for life; a rational way of thinking; a certain amount of creativity; freedom from the bonds of self; gut feelings that are based on proper discernment of right and wrong; a spiritual path; and the ability to love and be loved. Our nature is determined by our usage of these gifts. Your choice and my choice can be to allow these gifts to grow and prosper; to engage in actions that feed, protect and care for them. Or, we can allow them to lie fallow. It is amazing that these qualities often remain dormant and we function below our potential as a human being. But our gifts remain, simply waiting for an awakening.
Do I want a life filled with meaningful opportunities or do I want to be left with an unfulfilled yearning for something better? The choice seems obvious, so why do so many choose the latter path?
I once was a partner in a firm that was incredibly profitable and prosperous. We didn’t know why that was the case. Some believed we had the uncanny ability to find good people in all the towns and cities where we had offices. Some thought it was the vibrant southeastern marketplace which was our home. Others of our more egocentric brethren wondered if our abilities might be greater that we assumed. Many believed in luck—we were just uncommonly lucky. Once or twice, it was suggested that we do a thorough review of our business to find the elements of our success. Our executive committee, of which I was part, voted 5-0 in the negative. We were afraid of what me might find or we would change our luck if that turned out to be the reason.
Why do folks allow their gifts to remain hidden and unused? FEAR most of the time. We are afraid of what we might find. Fear is a dominant emotion for a good may folks. Other common emotions include surprise, happiness, joy, sadness and anger. Do you feel open and willing to express all of your emotions with zeal during your daily activities? Or do you fear what others might think of you? What if I told you that other’s thoughts about you are none of your business?
I wanted to know how my emotions were dominating my life and how the chaos (my executive committee–squirrels) going on in my head was ruining my life. I read about Thomas Merton and his struggles to find his true self. I wondered if a true self existed for me. I talked to priests and ministers, psychologists, smart women, smart men, and I read Emmett Fox, Carl Jung, William James, and the COURSE in Miracles. Finally, I looked at me. I could not go forward without knowing who I was and what I was. I had to look at people who angered or damaged me, at businesses and relationships that had deprived me of my just rewards, and at what scared me.
As you probably surmise, this accounting did not go in my favor. I had harmed far more people than had harmed me, mostly those for whom I expressed love and affection. The failure of my business and the anticipated membership on the New York Exchange (life-long dream) was of my own making. And fears centered on my inability to acknowledge mistakes and learn from failure. My outsized ego and my sense of self importance created anger that would not go away. It blocked joy and happiness and my relationship with God.
Luckily my way of thinking began to change. My understanding of life and progress through it were inhibited by my usage of certain emotions and my blockage of others. I could easily access fear, anger, and sadness in the extreme. But happiness and joy were absent. And I hated to be surprised. I had to make different choices and I needed help to do it.
I realized that I wasn’t connected to the Source. I wanted the power to transform my life and found that empowerment by connecting to God via a spiritual path. Centering prayer, solitude and silence were critical. I made a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Gethsemane, was silent for five days, went to services three times a day, and walked in Merton’s shoes. I reshaped myself and my life. I began to take risks and embrace new possibilities. I was generating happiness and joy from within rather than accepting external formulations of it. I freed my self from my self and made my relationship with God central to my life.
Things occur in life over which we have no control. Many will attribute these things to fate, randomness, nature, physical reality, or coincidence. There are no coincidences. It is the Spirit that provides the answers for us in all things. We find the Spirit when we discover and actively engage our True Self.
Love is the highest human function and where we put our True Self to its greatest use. St Francis tells us that it is better to love than be loved That would deny the intrinsic social nature that humans have to be loved and love another. By trusting another to know one’s own self through their eyes, we free our self to union–to love and be loved. Loving connections convey the ultimate expression of our True self.