Will the Real Me, Please Stand Up

Posted on September 14, 2011

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It’s strange.  I talk a lot about how easily we can fool even ourselves into believing that we are something that we are not.  Never underestimate the human ability to become self-deceived, I would caution people.  I never really know if they get what I am saying or not.  Now I wonder, if I wasn’t really just talking to myself.  Now I have to wonder if I ever really understood what I was saying?  We have gotten so proficient at shoveling the ‘tough love’ and personal revelations over onto other people; do we ever stop, reflect and consider, perhaps that the loving rebuke or new awareness of right and wrong was really meant for ourselves and not for whichever friend or family member, we thought that were trying to ‘help’ out?

You have this detailed image, a concept of who you are.  You support it with a convenient set of memories of events which support your supposition.  I am a decent, honest guy, trying to do the right thing, get through this life and hurt as few people as I can in the process.  To continue believing that you also need to conveniently forget the times when you acted completely contrary to that carefully crafted image.  You can think, for your entire life that you are one way and then in one defining moment, that glass house you have carefully built over the decades can be shattered.  One day, you know who you are, everything is clear and you feel confident about your place in the universe; the next you are lost.

That’s the weird thing. So long as your sense of identify is intact, you can weather a myriad of life’s storms and trials, but when your foundation is rocked and you begin to question your very identity, who you are, well then suddenly everything is back in play.  The question of who you are is thrown wide open and every possible answer, even the less flattering ones, seem like legitimate possibilities.

In a very pragmatic sense, we are the sum of our actions. While we can deceive ourselves and others into believing we are one way, one thing that doesn’t lie, is our actions.  So if we are the sum total of our actions, the good, the bad and the ugly, then what does that say about me?  What does that say about you?

If we are honest with ourselves, then we cannot avoid the unpleasant fact that we frequently fall short of whatever line it is that we are trying to walk or live up to.  Does that mean we are the horrible, self-absorbed individuals, who frequently place our own needs and desires over those around us, wounding others?  Are we therefore beyond redemption?

What about the moments, the rare glimpses of selflessness and benevolence that we can display?  Clearly we are not good, but we do have moments of goodness.  Where does that leave us?  Is there a glimmer of hope for each one of us?  It’s a pleasant notion that no one is beyond redemption.  I admit that I like the idea that somehow in a world where we continue to wound one another, that even the worst offenders can find salvation.  Really I should say that I desperately cling to that idea because if the worst of humanity can somehow be redeemed, then there is hope for me.  There is hope for each one of us.

In that kind of world, even the worst acts or mistakes we make, do not have to condemn us for eternity.  They do not have to define us and who we are.  Perhaps the strangest thing that we human do which has always fascinated me is our propensity when we are hurting, to do things that will inflict additional pain upon ourselves.  It’s as if the original hurt, inflicted by ourselves or someone else upon is, is somehow deserved and in our shame, we cease looking out for ourselves and indulge in activities which we knowingly understand are not good for us.  In essence, we heap more misery upon ourselves – continuing to punish ourselves.

But, if we refuse to toss in the towel and buy into the lie that we are only as good as our worst mistakes, then though we might be lost for a moment, there is the hope that we will find ourselves again.  Our once shaky foundation of identity can be solidified again.  In that perhaps the lesson is that we are neither all good nor all bad and that even when we are back at the top of our game, we are at last able to temper our polished self-image with a bit of humility, remembering where we have come from.  Perhaps, it’s only in having a true concept of ourself, our own imperfections, that we can avoid the arrogance and self-righteousness that seems to inflict so many in the church and in the world today.  Freed from that, with a proper concept of ourselves, thinking not overly high or low of ourselves, we are able to cut others some slack and chose to lead with grace, mercy and forgiveness and not judgment; recognizing that we are no different from them.

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