“We shall always have to deal with the fearful forces which are released when the human ego runs amok — the same forces that are shattering the world of our time. Deliver us from temptation must therefore continue to be a prime ingredient of our every attitude, practice, and prayer.”
A friend shared with me the above quote from Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. We’d been talking about the problems created when one’s ego is in control. I have had it explained to me that the ego is that part of our personality that develops when we are children to help us to cope with life. It is normal and happens to all of us. But the ego isn’t really our true selves. Our true self is the person that God created and said, “Wow…Good Job!”
If I were to put in a nutshell what I think God wants of us in this life, it would be for each of us to find and be our true selves. Taking that idea a step further, I think that all of the experiences we have in life, good and bad, and all of the relationships, lasting and fleeting, are given to us to help us in this discovery of self. That sounds a little narcissistic, I suppose. It implies that your only purpose for being on this earth is to assist me in my journey. Well, that is half true. The other half is that I am here for the purpose of helping you discovery your true self as well.
Realizing this lifts a great burden for me and gives me hope. When I look back at my life, I realize that I have done a few things that hurt others such as things I did to my kids when they were little and I was ignorant and insecure. But as they have gotten older, I watch them go through the same process as I have done in letting go of the ego shell and find themselves.
During the teens and early adult years, people go through a search for self that may take some pretty quirky turns. They may choose to dress in bizarre ways or wear their hair a certain way, always in contrast to what their parents would do. This is their way of saying, “I am not you,” which is true, but the clothes they wear and the hairstyle they bear isn’t really them either. The true self is way deeper. It is so deep that it is rather hard to find. It is so deep that, when found, one will later discover that they have only touched the tip of the iceberg. The journey within is never ending just as the journey out into space will never end. Best to be open and keep a sense of wonder…and a sense of humor is helpful as well.
There are a few of signs that one is getting close to one’s true self :
1. Creativity flows when the true self is in action. Creativity is the character of the Creator. You might say it is the Creator continuing to create but doing it through his creatures, which is why he was able to rest…he delegated. Sharing the role of creating is a great and precious gift and when we create we are most like God.
2. There is truth in the saying, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” If one has had to create a big, thick ego in order to survive, it may take some pretty hard knocks to break through. Here is where I find hope. In the midst of suffering a blow because one has done something harmful or let someone down, there is the other saying from the scriptures: “God will make good of all things.” When we function in the world of hope instead of despair, we can ask for forgiveness, we can try to right our wrongs, and we can begin to make better choices in the light of the lessons we have learned.
3. The thing about the ego is that we grow rather attached to it. It serves us in many ways. It may be the reason people like us. Many a “good-ol’-boy has had a hard time letting go of a carefully crafted image. Or the intellectual or religious guru whose wisdom is sought by many. It may be our ego that got us ahead in the business world. It may be the ego that made us appear so sweet and kind to others when deep within we were just buying love. When we are attached to our egos, fear is the result. We become afraid of being found out, fearful that no one will like us or that we will lose our security. This is where faith comes in. What we fear may actually happen, but faith enables us to let go and choose to be one’s true self anyway because it is the right thing. And God rewards us with a beautiful gift that assures us that we are going in the right direction: serenity or inner peace, and joy. Consider the transformation of Ebeneezer Scrooge. When he let go of his miserly, grumpy ego, he was downright giddy.
I myself feel this serenity. My journey toward self has been long and arduous, but I am getting closer. I am not afraid anymore of letting people know who I am and what I think. But I still struggle a bit when it comes to “the fearful forces which are released when the human ego runs amok.” So far I have focused on my own journey and I have tried to help those in my care with their’s, but what to do about those other forces, the ones that get institutionalized or those that dwell within the people who hold positions of power I don’t know. I am trying to be open to more of the iceberg to reveal itself.