Who am I, really?
Am I the calm and quiet person I like to think of myself as, or am I person who is easily moved to anger when someone pushes the right buttons? A recent incident precipitated this rush of self-examination. Do we ever really know ourselves?
We hold in our minds a sort of self-image, a profile of ourselves. Without it, we probably coundn’t live our lives. When we are faced with decisions, we refer back to this self-image, and to a large degree, it helps determine the decisions we make. You know the old adage: If you tell a child often enough that he is naughty, he will come to believe it, and behave accordingly”. And of course, the reverse is also true. I have seen both sides of this adage in action in real life. I have seen naughty children become angels because someone believed in their goodness, and good children become terrors because someone kept getting them into trouble.
But as adults, are we masters of our own self-image? How much responsibility for it do we bear, and how much is borne by those we meet throughout our lives, especially those who are in a position to affect us strongly?
We take this impact of others for granted in many of the things we say. We speak of a saint such as St Mark who began the conversion of Egypt to Christianity 2,000 years ago. His impact on those first Egyptian Christians was nothing less than life-changing, indeed, nation-changing! Today, we accept immediately and without question that a powerful preacher or author can change the minds and lives of millions.
And yet, can anyone really change your self-image without your consent? In children, I can certainly accept that this happens, for the child is not yet mature enough to choose for him/herself what inputs to accept and to reject. The child to a great extent trusts the judgement of the adults in her life, takes their words and comments at face value, cannot analyse them very deeply, nor assess their validity. Tell a child they are cute, and they’ll beam with happiness, event hey are the most unattractive child ever to be born. Tell a child that they have been naughty, and watch the face drop, even if they have not done anything wrong.
But the grown up should be different. The grown up is required to bear their own responsibility for who they are. They are to be mature enough to filter the truth from the untruth, and thus form a self-image that is valid. And yet, we so often get it wrong…
I find myself unwilling to incorporate feedback that I don’t like from people into my self-image. Yet I jump at the chance when they say nice things about me. And then, an incident like the breaking through of anger suddenly crashes me back to earth once more. My self-image turns out to have been false, even though I had trusted it, and built my behaviour around it. There are little nasties lurking around in the dark corners of my soul that I seem to have conveniently forgotten about. My self-image needs revision, if it is to be accurate … and my self itself needs repentance, if it is to be acceptable. Which should I tackle first?
Perhaps the self-image has to be corrected first, brought back into line with reality. If I don’t know the little nasties inside me, how can I do anything about them? What if I don’t like the self-image I find, when I brush away the deception? Well, that’s when the real work begins…
2 Replies to “The Little Nasties and Me”
Hi Abouna, can you offer some advice on the best way to bring your self-image in line with reality?
I agree that there are times when we choose to let positive feedback define our self image a little bit too much (oh no! that pesky little pride nasty!) but the pendulum can also swing the other way and we can have an overly negative perception of ourselves, perhaps taking criticism too much to heart (oops, that little despair nasty!!)…how do we achieve the right balance from which to start the ‘real work’?
This is an interesting issue … i believe everybody would be looking at it differently ….i believe most of us and specially those who do regularly their repentance , confession , holy communion , live holy all the time on earth and start eternal life here through their pure hearts and fight hard for it , i believe they know good themselves through the regular mechanism of regular SELF EXAMINATION … i personally i do it when i do my night short prayers and go to bed i start to reflect on the events of the day and by the help of God through the holy spirit which i believe trigger my conscious that all my wrong doings come in front of my eyes …i reckon it works with me through this automatic great holy mechanism … i do not think it is to sit there and balance the positives with negatives and checking self image and whatever the others say about me!!!????? …what matters what the Lord think about you pal and how you feel about yourself that is the main gauge for you …. just do the right thing all the time to the best of own ability and fear nothing and at the end you achieve and feel that satisfaction with own self ….it is simply i believe a simple strait forward procedure for the person who wants to maintain that pure heart and to go through it regularly by revisiting own self … i wonder if there are another interesting perceptions on this issue …every day we learn something …i believe abouna has got something their wants to high light i could not figure it which is in between the lines ??!! i am with Angela , i appreciate if abouna elaborate more in depth in this issue …..praise the name of God by your work , amen …..