The Truth of who you are
Who are you? Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be? Who do others think you are? Who do others want you to be? In this fourth lesson of six in the Fall Program series, Discovering Your Soul Signature, based on the book of the same title by Panache Desai, Rev. Joanne asks us to consider these questions, and to explore the different ideas we have about ourselves.
As newborn infants, humans are beings of pure potentiality. Each of us is uniquely gifted with talents and abilities that help to shape who we are and can become. But as we grow and develop into adolescents and adults, our personhood, that some might view as a “blank canvas,” is filled with ideas of who we are by those around us, most importantly our families and peers.
We receive praise and encouragement telling us that we are smart, kind, athletic, compassionate, hard working, dependable or selfless. At one level we like hearing these things about ourselves. Who does not want to be thought of in a positive light? Encouragement often does give us that little bit extra we need to persevere to achievement or stay strong in a crisis. But there is another aspect to receiving praise. When others tell us how wonderful we are, how does that make us feel when we fall short of the expectations of others, or the expectations we have for ourselves?
I believe that most people would much rather have someone they care about be angry with them than be disappointed in them. Anger, often, is a reaction to a specific event. It peaks in intensity, then dissipates. We can count to ten or bite our tongue. But disappointment can linger for years, even permanently. Counting to ten does not lessen disappointment. Is our mother or father still angry with us forty years later for the time when we were a child when we broke the china cabinet because we were playing baseball inside? Probably not. However, it is not at all uncommon to hear parents of mature adults express disappointment in their children – you never married, never had children, did not finish college.
Throughout our lives we also receive messages from our family and peers about who we are that are not the least bit pleasant. Your next older sibling is fifteen years older than you and your parents say jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) that you were a “mistake.” If you are female, you may have heard that girls are only good for getting married and having babies. If you are male, you may have heard that boys who show their emotions, even a little bit, are weak sissies. Just as we believe the positive things others say about us, we also believe the negative things. But are either of these things really true?
So, if our true self is not defined by what others say we are or believe we are, good or bad, what is our True Self? This is no small question. Benjamin Franklin said, "There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self." Famed psychologist Sigmund Freud spent a career exploring this question. While he made a good deal of progress in helping us to understand the inner workings of the human mind, the question has not been fully resolved. Perhaps it never will be. He did, however, express admiration for the ineffable qualities of the human spirit and quipped, “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.” Rev. Joanne shared the work of one such poet, Daniel Nahmod:
What do I do if I'm not chasing anything
What do I do if I've got everything that I need
It's a question that no-one's prepared me to answer
Where do I go if I'm right where I'm s'posed to be
Where do I go if wherever I am I am home
It's a question I'm presently wanting to answer
If the usual way doesn't work for me now
That's a void I know nothing about
What if the race is over, and we all automatically win
What if the game is ended, long before it even begins
What if the test has been taken and we're all passing again and again
If the race is over... what then1
We have the opportunity in every moment to return to the mystery of who we are. This does not mean that all of our life experiences count for nothing – on the contrary. Learning from our successes and our failures provides us with greater wisdom in exploring that mystery. Examining our actions with an eye to understanding our own morality and motives provides invaluable guidance to future decisions and actions. When we know the Truth about ourselves as being a divine expression of the Christ Presence, who others believe we are, and even who we may falsely believe ourselves to be, fall away and become irrelevant.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
You are invited to create your own spiritual practice around this week’s focus. You could set the intention to see the Divine within everything. You could decide to become fully present in whatever action you take. Set your intention and then go about the work of doing it this week!
It has been said by many wise spiritual teachers that humans are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings having a human experience. There is a lot to be said for that approach. Even if we are first spiritual beings, we still must experience the world through our physical bodies, which includes the cognitive processes of our brains. So this week, my spiritual practice will be to Stop, Look, and Listen to the environment around me with the intent to understand how my morality and motivations are informing my actions, then doing my best to remain consistent with my core values. How will you experience your True Self this week?
1Nahmod, Daniel, If the Race is Over, Nahmod Music Inc, 2006