Letters to Jesus (Ego, False-self, and Groundhog Day -10
To discover who one is and what it means to be oneself, one must work as if in a monastery on removing certain things from one’s life. To be in a monastery, I would think, would be, in one sense, like being in the desert with You. It would be there that we might best understand the need to rid ourselves of the fear of failure. There we might begin to understand the importance of removing the need to be what we believe pleases others. Both of these are strongly enmeshed in the false self we spend so much time grooming.
The false self is an exterior façade that we come to believe is a given necessity for security and material survival in the world. We can become very comfortable with it because we create it as we go along - improvising its facets to suit our changing needs. There is no question that it infects our spirituality and there is no question that its ongoing formation is deeply based on a fear of failure. Sensing oncoming failure triggers a flurry of adjustments to maintain the comfortable status quo of the false self. Accepting failure (not striving for it) and learning ever to ignore the fear of failure seems alien.We want to be so much for others. We want to be one who means something to others and fills a need in them. The prospect of failure at this can be terrifying – but should it be?
You came to us and, in effect, said, “Here I am. What you see is what you get.” Shouldn’t we be all about being able to fearlessly make precisely that same statement? In fact, since our nature is not divine like Yours, shouldn’t we be about constantly working at establishing that true self as our only self?
The desert, the monastery, the interior life – these are the environments of the true self – the self that simply says “Here I am.” These are also the environments in which we nurture the growth of this true self – a self that is not afraid to fail (though it doesn’t seek to do so) and a self that is unafraid of not being meaningful or pleasing to everyone else (though it seeks the opposite).
What we bring away from contemplative prayer should be our true selves – or, at least, a growing awareness of our true selves. The true self is at the center of our being. The desert, the monastery and the interior life provide the environments we need to gravitate toward this center and away from our false selves without fears. Sustaining the true self in hostile environments, in the commerce of daily life in the world, and in the complexities of human relationships is the mark that distinguishes the saint.