Knowing Me as I Am

We are all the sum total of a number of various parts.  Our personalities are never made up of one thing.  We all have dominate personality traits and subordinate traits.  We have traits that function well under pressure and those that function well when things are calm.  Not one of us can say we are one thing and one thing only.  Even those most talkative extrovert needs and wants to be quiet and alone at times.  It is within everyone of us.

maninpiecesThe problem with our traits is we often categorize them and decide which ones we like and which ones we don’t like.  We try to set aside and forget about the traits we don’t like, and work to enhance the ones that we do.  We have parts of ourselves that we build our whole persona on and completely ignored and neglected others.

“If, for example, I only know my strong, competent self and am never able to embrace my weak or insecure self, I am forced to live a lie. I must pretend that I am strong and competent, not simply that I have strong and competent parts or that under certain circumstances I can be strong and competent. Similarly, if I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty.”

Start reading this book for free:

When we separate and ignore parts of ourselves we think that we are helping ourselves and getting rid of what we feel is negative about us.  But we take away from ourselves when we do.  And the parts we ignore don’t ever actually go away.  They just simmer out of our sight, forgotten and ignored.  We think we have dealt with them and they are gone but they haven’t gone and they are not getting weaker.  In fact out of sight they have begun to build strength and will one day burst forth somewhere.  Just like a volcano erupts when it finds a weak spot, so the parts of ourselves we ignore will come out.  And they will usually come out in a destructive form.

Many addictions that people suffer from can sometimes be traced to parts of ourselves that we have shut down and ignored.  Parts of us that were important parts of ourselves.  David Benner wrote There is enormous value in naming and coming to know these excluded parts of self. My playful self, my cautious self, my exhibitionistic self, my pleasing self, my competitive self and many other faces of my self all are parts of me, whether I acknowledge their presence or not.  Christian spirituality involves acknowledging all our part-selves, exposing them to God’s love and letting him weave them into the new person he is making. To do this, we must be willing to welcome these ignored parts as full members of the family of self, giving them space at the family table and slowly allowing them to be softened and healed by love and integrated into the whole person we are becoming.”

In order for us to be whole we need to discover the parts of ourselves that we have cut off and rejected, and begin to understand ourselves as a total picture, not just the design we were trying to become.  Our whole being was something that Jesus thought was worth dying for.  Everything we are including the parts we reject is part of who we were created to be.

The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self—the real me. But, master of delusion that I am, I have trouble penetrating my web of self-deceptions and knowing this real me. I continually confuse it with some ideal self that I wish I were.”

If we are to truly discover who we are we need to see all the parts of ourselves as important and valuable.  Only then can God show us how He designed us to be and only then can we actually become all we were meant to be.

“You can never be other than who you are until you are willing to embrace the reality of who you are. Only then can you truly become who you are most deeply called to be.”


Transformation through acceptance

transformationWe all know things about ourselves that need to change.  And many times we have even struggled to change them.  At times our effort is successful, and other times we fight to change things about ourselves and end up discouraged by our lack of success.  There are things that our loved ones tell us need to change just to add to our list of things we struggle to become.  Everyone of us can compile a list if we think about it of things that we don’t like about ourselves and want to change.

The list is endless and as diverse as we are.  Everything from weight issues and body types, to personality quirks.  Our lists include addictions and behaviors.   Some behaviors are learned and we have developed them as we seek to be included in our world, or to protect ourselves from it.  Regardless of  where you grew up, or your social status in life you have a list.  There are a lot of things about ourselves that we don’t like.  And many of them we have hidden away securely so that we don’t have to see them and hopefully no one else finds out about them.  Unfortunately our hiding them away has not helped us in any way.

“Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted—even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance.” And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are—before you start your self-improvement projects!”  David G. Benner

In order for us to truly change we need to see ourselves as we are, and accept ourselves as we are.  This can be very difficult for us to do because there is a lot of ourselves that we find unacceptable and fight to guard and keep hidden.  This behavior has caused many of the struggles we now face, because a behavior, or part of ourselves that we keep locked away does not go away and it doesn’t get weaker.  In fact the behaviors and traits we hide away get stronger and more aggressive, and when they break free and get loose they always appear in greater intensity and there is often a disaster.  It is like trying to bottle up a volcano.  It may appear to be calm and serene on the surface, but what we ignore is brewing in intensity and will eventually explode and it always explodes away from where we hid it.

Which is why we often don’t connect our behaviors to their cause, and we end up fighting the symptoms of an issue and never deal with the root.  And this is why we don’t have lasting changes in our lives.  As we accept ourselves regardless of what we find we can then see what actually needs to change and begin the healing or learning process which allows the changes to happen.

All of this is made possible as we learn to accept ourselves as God accepts us.  For many people acceptance is a myth because they do not know the love and acceptance of God.  We have conditions on God’s approval and love for us, and it is always based on our performance.  We feel if we can just be good enough, and do right enough God will love us.  And this behavior is completely against scripture.  Romans 5:8 says He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready.” MSG  God isn’t waiting for us to be acceptable to love us, He loves us unconditionally just as we are.  We cannot do anything to earn His love, and His love for us cannot be diminished or increased. 

We need to allow God to reveal His love to us and truly understand what it means to be unconditionally loved, and to experience this love personally.  This was what Paul was praying for when he wrote  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT

As we experience this love and acceptance it allows us the ability to look into the areas of life that we have been unwilling or unable to look.  And as we do we will find God there waiting for us each and every time, and the pain of the experience will be surrounded and invaded by the augustinelove that God has for us, and we will find ourselves knowing ourselves, and in the process we can know God more as well.  We can only change as we allow our lives to come under inspection and open the doors to the things we have kept locked away and allow the love and life of God to fill those areas of our hearts.

The false self and God

true-identity.jpgWe were created for relationship.  Each and every person has built into us a need for others.  We need relationships in order to be healthy and grow.  Unfortunately we have given into the idea of independence and we can go it alone.  This was not the plan that God had in mind for us.  God created us for relationship and the primary relationship was meant to be with Him.  Everyday God would come and walk through the garden and interact and share with Adam and Eve.  And even though things got screwed up by the choices they made that removed us from relationship with God, He never let go of this one thing.  We were created for relationship, and God deeply desires a personal relationship with everyone.

Our problem is we don’t know ourselves and we are not willing to look within and see what is inside us we end up hiding from God.  We take large portions of ourselves and hide them away for fear of rejection, or because they are parts of ourselves that we don’t like, or are uncomfortable with.  We live a life based on the image of who we want people to see, or what I have begun to understand as a false self, or false identity.  We have learned to portray ourselves in a way that seems favorable and ignores anything that is uncomfortable about ourselves.  And every moment of every day of our life God wanders in our inner garden, seeking our companionship. The reason God can’t find us is that we are hiding in the bushes of our false self.

David Benner wrote “The more we identify with our psychologically and socially constructed self, the more deeply we hide from God, ourselves and others. But because of the illusory nature of the false self, most of the time we are not aware that we are hiding. Coming out of hiding requires that we embrace the vulnerabilities that first sent us scurrying for cover. As long as we try to pretend that things are not as they are, we choose falsity.”

The problem is we don’t always recognize our false identity because we have lived with it for so long that we have become comfortable with and live according to who we made ourselves to be.  But that very thing we use to protect ourselves from others ends up separating us from God who deeply loves us.  We end up not knowing ourselves, and as a result we miss out on knowing God.  The worst part is we don’t even recognize that we don’t know God, because we design Him to suit ourselves.  So we think we know Him and we follow Him, but we are following a “god created in our image.”

What is worse is the very thing we use to hide ourselves ends up creating this very thing.  “Having first created a self in the image of our own making, we then set out to create the sort of a god who might in fact create us. Such is the perversity of the falspuppet1e self.”  We then pursue a life we are comfortable with and allows us to never examine ourselves to deeply, and we never really have to change.   Our false self will keep us in bondage and we will be happy to allow it until we realize that isn’t what God designed us for.

If we are willing to allow God to show us who we really are, and begin to work from there we can encounter the true God and see our lives transformed.  But it begins by being wiling to see ourselves differently.  If we close the door and refuse to look inward we lose the ability to truly know God.  Knowing God will always cause us to see ourselves and to know ourselves.  We cannot change what we do not know, and if we never allow God to reveal our true nature we will never allow Him to change us.

Even though it may be uncomfortable and even painful we must be willing to allow God to remove our shell and our false identity.  It begins by asking God to help you see what makes you feel most vulnerable and most like running for cover.  Our false self will try to protect itself and keep you hidden, but we cannot allow it.  The places we feel the most vulnerable is the very place that God wants to open our hearts to His presence and love, but He can only do this if we allow Him in.  So we need to ask God to help us look inside and to help us see the things that we use to defend ourselves from feeling vulnerable.  Then we need to ask God to prepare you to trust enough to let go of these fig leaves of your personal style.

The riches of God’s presence await us if we are willing to open ourselves up to His touch.