How can I deal with my ‘false self? There are ways of exposing it. One is humor: suddenly glimpsing my seriousness about myself and my efforts, even those stubborn efforts to be good and improve myself; perhaps glimpsing in a moment of delicious self-awareness, how ridiculous I am. Ideally I come to realize that there is a whole world out there that is not about me. What a relief! I can relax and learn to part of it, without having to be at the center of it all.
Another way of exposing the ‘false self’ is self-compassion. I may finally realize that I am being ridiculous or obsessive and really stuck in destructive patterns. But I cannot just stop or deny them. I have acknowledged them. Perhaps now I can be gentle with myself. I am a fragile, broken creature, but I am held by the love of God. I am not perfect. Being compassionate with myself does not mean being self-indulgent. Rather simply accepting my powerlessness and being gentle with my own creatureliness involves true humility. And it can lead me back to others and to the world around me- at last more self-forgetful, and truly compassionate.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from a recent chapter talk by Abbot Damian.