False and private self

By Dave Henning / February 10, 2023

“My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love — outside of reality and outside of life.”- Thomas Merton

“You can tell when the false self takes over because you become easily offended.  The false self . . . is offended (about every three minutes) because it’s fragile.  The true self, on the other hand, is unoffendable.”- Richard Rohr

In Chapter 5 (“Beyond the Walls of the False Self: Humility and Lowering Our Defenses”) of Good and Beautiful and Kind, Rich Villodas notes that there’s too much to defend within us.  Because we build our interior walls so high and deep love’s roots fail to grow.

Furthermore, Pastor Villodas posits, we’ve constructed a life that needs constant defending.  Hence, the term false self describes the identity we construct that cancels the true self found only in Christ.   Above all, Rich stresses, the false self represents an important term to consider in relation to humility.

In addition, humility means more than just doing a lowly task.  Most significantly, the humble life commits to the hard task of lowering one’s defenses.  The author explains:

“The angle of humility that we desperately need for our fractured world is seeing it as the ability to live freely from protecting the false self — living free from the defensiveness that closes us in on ourselves.”

However, every time something threatens the false self, it reveals the fragility we carry.  Consequently, humility serves as the antidote to soul fragility.  And when we allow our fragility to lead us rather than protecting it, we open our lives to internal freedom.  A freedom no longer governed by the words and actions of others.

In conclusion, Rich describes the true self as the place within us where we find ourselves securely in God’s love.  As a result, we possess no need to project or protect it.  Because the true self finds its identity in Christ.  So, in humility, we commit to live from the true self.

Today’s question: When do you notice your false and private self showing up?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Poverty of spirit – living freely”

About the author

Dave Henning

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