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Your false self

So many people live under a cloud of angst, perpetually stressed and at war with themselves, knowing down deep that they have sold out to what Richard Rohr calls the “false self.”   The false self is the sum total of other people’s expectations and the voices embedded and looping in their…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
So many people live under a cloud of angst, perpetually stressed and at war with themselves, knowing down deep that they have sold out to what Richard Rohr calls the “false self.”
The false self is the sum total of other people’s expectations and the voices embedded and looping in their minds. It’s the trophies on the wall and in your mind – the name dropping and recitation of past accomplishments. It’s the need to impress people – looking to them for applause rather than to your heavenly Father.
Your true self is like Jesus’ vision of the kingdom – a pearl of great price waiting to be discovered. Rohr has diagnosed the syndrome of the false self better than anyone I know. Here are some quotes taken from his wonderful book Everything Belongs.
The small mind works by comparison and judgment; the great mind works by synthesizing and suffering with alternative truths.  
The ego cannot stand this suffering, and that is exactly why it is so hard for religions and individuals to grow up.  The ego prefers a satisfying untruth to an unsatisfying truth because the ego demands instant satisfaction and the settling of all dust.
Our false self is who we think we are.  It is our mental self-image and social agreement, which most people spend their whole lives living up to — or down to.  It is all a fictional creation.  It will die when we die.  
It [the false self] is endlessly fragile, needy, and insecure, and it is what we are largely dealing with in the secular West.  
The false self is inherently needy because it has no metaphysical substance whatsoever.  It is formed entirely in psychological and mental time and changes or dies easily.  Yet most people spend their entire lives projecting, protecting, and maintaining this fiction.  
The false self is passing, whimsical, and utterly preoccupied with self-maintenance and not much more.
Initiation merely tries to direct, facilitate, and speed up the process of REDISCOVERING our true self.
The true self is indestructable and characterized by an inner-abundance.  It is not needy, easily offended, or hurt.  The true self is characterized by contentment, an abiding low-level peace and happiness, although now and then it becomes pure joy.  It knows that ALL is ok — despite it all!

Comments (10)

  • Thanks, Seth. My early morning prayer vigil punctuates days that typically start with a shower, grooming, getting dressed then prayer. Somewhere in that sequence I’ll peruse what God has put on your heart. And its a hard and sometimes gentle prod to embrace the depths of Jesus–again. Prone to wander Lord I feel it.

    Richard Rohr is a trusted bed side companion. He and his literary tribe of Manning, Moore, Nouwen and some of the Catholic father’s are always within arms reach. The Bible hovers like the caring den mother for a Boy Scout troupe.

    So this morning after reading your post I found myself asking “How do we shed the false self and discover the true self?” That is the poignant question.

    For me it is a list–I know you like them–something like this:

    1. Suffering.

    2. New spiritual friends who are a catalyst for change.

    3. Deconstruction of “safe” social networks of “pretend.”

    4. A spiritual appetite for the “comfortably uncomfortable.”

    5. A “Rhema” word from the Living God.

    6. Silence. Sacraments. Spiritual service of a low nature.

    7. Repentance. Confession. Godly sorrow. Tears.

    Far from cosmetic surgery the migration from the false to the real involves the dismembering of assumptions, the lancing of bubbling pus filled boils of bad thinking, the severing of the conjoined twins of walking in the word and walking in the world and bluntly– a total transfusion.

    The process is most often–violent.

    But like the cancer patient waking up after a long surgery in the bright room of “recovery” we hear the whisper of the Great Physician–“We got the tumor. It was taken out. You will be just fine”.

    And so–we are.

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    Reminds of Mathilde in Guy de Maupassant short-story “The Necklace.” Oh, how often I have put on those pearls thinking I was something. And I always “lost” them, and felt the need to replace them, which was always costly. I wonder if people look at me and wonder – “Oh! . . . my poor Mathilde(Mark), how you have changed! . . .” “Yes, I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows . . . and all on your account.” It was not on her/their account, rather it was on account of my true self not meeting the expectations of my father and others who I never felt accepted my true self. Thereby, causing me to look for something to “cover” up my lack of acceptance. Love this Seth, it is what we are discussing right now with the family, bible study, and the youth I am working with.

  • Seth: Your message today was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. I have been struggling somewhat with self-worth and not feeling like I am measuring up in the eyes of the world. This reminded me of what I “know” but sometimes forget. Thank you!

  • Seth,
    How much truth is in the blog today. We are getting many notes from around the country with Beauty from Ashes, from women who are battling this daily. The battle can be won as we shed our coporate personna’s and what the world expects from us.

    Thank you for your help in my transformation, a daily journey with our Father by my side, the wind at my back, and the joy of being out of the cocoon.

  • Love this post, Seth.

    I was on Francis Frangipane’s site last night and noticed a series entitled, “the unoffendable life” … I have a dear friend who inspires me all the time with just a refusal to be offended or hurt by anything. And how true is that – when we are living in who Christ says we are (our true self) what on earth does it matter what other people say or do? I have no rights – only His. My life is hidden in His – and He has already proven capable of handling anything anyone dishes out.

    He was rejected, so we can be accepted … He was wounded, so we can be healed … He was punished, so we could have peace … He was made sin, so we could be righteous. Why oh why do I keep taking off the true self and putting on the false, as if I’m afflicted with spiritual Alzheimer’s?

    I can’t help but think of Eustace in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader – covered in the dragon scales of his false identity and dying to get out:

    “Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. There he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’re no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

    “After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me . . . in new clothes — the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here.” [116-117]

    There is some profound truth here, I think, about the process. When Jesus takes it off, it’s so much thicker and darker than the stuff we try to take off ourselves (that keeps reappearing!). It smarts like anything to be humble before the Lord and thrown into the baptismal pool naked – but only for a metaphorical moment. The joy of being free, back to our true selves – WOW. And getting new clothes – that’s not bad either!! I just love how Eustace was a different boy for the rest of that journey … Thanks Seth for your help in my transformation too – I am so looking forward to what God will do for women through Beauty for Ashes…

  • i love this because i’m surrounding by a lot of the new age stuff in my circle of friends, and i don’t know how to (or whether to) relate to it. i sensed that there was some truth in the idea of the ego and our true selves, but i wasn’t sure how to relate to that with Jesus in mind. thank you for sharing these quotes, and helping me find that path. my true self exists, but i can’t access it through my own efforts… as jodi says, Jesus has to slough off my outer shell and let that little light inside me shine!

  • I love this website …reading the blogs & comments! It’s an oasis of God-focused people, fellow-laborers, in a desert of the opposite. So refreshing and supportive. Long-distance human encouragement to continue walking in holiness is better than none at all. I think you’re all awesome. 🙂

  • “find me in the river, find me there, find me on my knees with my soul laid bare….find me in the river, I be waiting there”

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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