50 Shades of Ego

shadesWhen my oldest child was born my mother would look at her and say crazy stuff like, “Babies are just pure selfishness! They’re so sinful; all they can think of is themselves.” It was this mindset, based on her ‘Christian values’, that formed the standard in which she raised me. I know that’s convoluted, and I in no way wish to place blame, but it gives some context for how my formative Christian experience shaped and affirmed the false self in me.

To begin with, my egoic specialness was identified with being sinful and inherently bad. I’m almost certain my mother thought I was the spawn of Satan. As I grew older, my ego discovered that it could also be special in the church if, instead of being pure selfishness, it became outstanding Christian goodness. I became a youth leader and eventually a pastor’s wife. In the Pentecostal circles I inhabited as a young person there could be no higher spiritual achievement for a young woman than to be married to a pastor. I had arrived.

And thus, my false self’s passive need to be special symbiotically joined the church in myriad ways. Oh, the (mis)adventures we’ve had.

Today, I find myself re-entering the context of church after a sabbatical. In my time away I explored other mystical paths and integrated new perspectives into the growing expansiveness of my spiritual repertoire. I’ve spent time in communities with no defined doctrines or sacred agendas, just simple unconditional love and acceptance.

I’d somehow drawn the conclusion that upon re-entering the church I would easily assimilate my fresh understanding into church life and something new and wonderful would just kind of instantly manifest for me.

I could not have been more wrong.

As a matter of fact, had I known before hand what I was getting myself into, I don’t think I would’ve agreed to Jesus’ invitation back into ‘the fold’! That’s not to say I was tricked; I’ve been a willing participant with the freedom to leave at any time.

My biggest challenge has been that my false self or ego is still trying to fill its old role of being special within the context of church. When I attend on Sunday morning or join up with a midweek small group, ego arises in me, nuanced with various shades of judgment, anger, frustration and self-righteousness. Ugly, ugly, ugly. It’s as if a mischievous toddler just walked up to my beautifully crafted masterpiece of ‘enlightened self’ and scribbled all over it with a crayon.

Could it be that the Divine is gently proposing I rework my sanctimonious showpiece, starting with a thick coat of primer? Seems so.

Jesus, give me the courage to walk in the humility you so graciously demonstrated, to be open to the reshaping of your Spirit in me, not clinging to what I’ve created myself to be, but in the openness and vulnerability of my True Self in you. Let me be a freshly primed canvass. This time, you be the paintbrush.

“Love does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Nuance

Should My Ego Educate Yours?

arguingThe question was asked in church the other day, “If someone doesn’t believe in sin, how can you help them see its reality?” My stomach turned. I could feel something in me push back at that this, but I wasn’t quite sure what. As I took time to unravel it, this is what I discovered…

I’m a mediator. It’s not just my job, it’s who I am. Not that I do it perfectly, but it’s my role and my personality in this fleshly existence. I do make judgements, because it’s my egoic nature to do so, but many times I sense a check in my spirit when I have. That check is an invitation back into neutrality and openness with Holy Spirit.

One of my biggest hang-ups with church and Christians in general is this idea that it’s our moral duty to educate others on what the truth is. I’ll address that duty in a moment. First, let’s talk about what usually happens when my ego decides it should tell someone else’s ego that their perspective is wrong and mine is right. Naturally, people get defensive. As soon as you put someone on the defensive, you’ve lost the argument no matter how good or valid your points are. You might’ve proven your rightness to yourself and other like-minded individuals, but you’ve most certainly pushed the other person further away from seeing your take on the truth.

Truth is not revealed to others by egos educating egos, because our flesh-nature is completely out of touch with God and doesn’t know God. Therefore, truth isn’t revealed through opinions, arguments and apologetics. Truth can only be revealed through the Holy Spirit or that part of me that’s deeply in tune with the Spirit called my human spirit.

Here’s the paradox: your human spirit will never feel the need to educate someone on truth. It will only serve to point them to the Divine for revelation. When we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, people will naturally be guided to the Spirit when they’re around us and they’ll find their answers there. They’ll also own these revelations because they received them directly from the Source.

When I’m coaching someone or working with parties in dispute, it’s never my place to tell them why I might perceive that their ways are flawed. Trust me, I wouldn’t be very successful with that approach! My job is simply to ask questions and share positive insights that’ll help them understand themselves more deeply and that lead them to God for answers.

I Am Not the Holy Spirit (And Neither Are You)

Do you know how many times my ego has secretly thought it knew exactly what someone needed to hear from God (moral base and apologetics included) only to find out later I was completely off track?! I’m embarrassed to say. Think about how many biblical characters made what seemed like bad choices to begin with, only to have it revealed later that they were on the paths that were right for them? Jonah, David and Paul come to mind…just to name about 1% of them.

My children have probably taught me this lesson most deeply. That’s because I judge them more than anyone else, poor dears. Most people jump to the conclusion that kids can’t adequately hear from the Holy Spirit in order to make good choices for themselves. Christian parents tend to take on the fear-based role of being some sort of replacement or interpreter for the Divine in their kids’ lives, telling them how they should behave or think according to God. (Hint: anything you do out of fear is not of God.) In many cases, kids are more in tune than we are. We just don’t give them a chance to demonstrate this.

These days I try to teach my children through imparting principles and concepts, not should’s and shouldn’ts. I try not to interfere with how Spirit is leading them. This lends itself to a lot of judgement from nearly everybody because it’s not a popular child rearing method in the Western World. Fortunately, I don’t mind what people think much anymore.

The bottom line is this:  I am not the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit. But when we are in sync with the Spirit and living out of the fruit that this life-style yields, we will always be helpful to others in the best way. You’ll know when you’re walking in righteousness because you won’t feel angry, fearful or like you have to prove a point, you’ll just feel awesome and full of unconditional love!

Replacement

Why Judging Others Hurts You and How to Stop

illusionPerceptions are predicated on judgements. I judge all the time. It’s an automatic thing.

When I came into the world, having the ability to judge kept me alive because it helped my little infant body to discern pain, hunger and appropriate body temperature. As I got older, adults taught me that doing things that made them feel uncomfortable, fearful or reactive was called ‘bad’. I expertly learned to transfer this concept onto everything around me and before I even started school I lived in a world that had been clearly delineated by good and bad.

Challenging Perceptions

Every once in a while I would have profoundly questioning moments in my childhood. Was my hand really called a ‘hand’ or was a word actually irrelevant to the object it represented? If I called it something else, would it still be what it was? Do words really  mean anything and if yes, who decided what they should mean? What if I decide to change their meanings or give things gibberish names?

Sometimes this idea of perception would lead me into seeing a completely different world around me. Even my body didn’t feel like I belonged to it. I’d look at my arm and experience it like something disconnected from myself. If I tried to share my mystical musings with a friend I was sure to get a weird look. I wouldn’t have dreamed of disclosing my thoughts to the adults in my life.

Humor me for moment and give this some consideration: What if some people were time transported from 700 years ago into the present day? Let’s say we did a social experiment and nobody gave them any information about the new and strange things they were seeing. What would they name objects and places and what would they think the functions of these things are? Would they eventually start to see things the way we do or would they come up with completely innovative uses for them?

This little experiment would expose something very interesting about how we judge and perceive. You see, we can only judge something when we have past experience with it. In essence, we are projecting suppositions we formed in the past onto what we see before us now. For example, we judge someone as being ‘fat’ because we know what this is from past experience. And then we take it a step further and judge their character based on how we’ve perceived overweight people before. I use this example because I think nearly everyone can relate to it (just being painfully honest here).

Now let me challenge you…

Changing Perceptions

In the gospels Jesus clearly admonishes people to ‘judge not’. This used to make me feel like a chastised child. I finally realised that Jesus was trying to communicate something much deeper than a simple warning. Let’s explore this a bit.

What if we asked Holy Spirit to guide us in seeing our world  with the eyes of our heart rather than the ones in our skull? In particular, what if we could see people in a fresh new way with no past attached and a clean new slate every time we were with them? How would that change our experience?! No judgements, just pure unconditional love. Impossible you say? Not so. I’ve tried this. With people who’ve hurt me deeply. Guess what? It’s transformed my relationships with them.

When we hold people to their past through judgement and unforgiveness we don’t give them the opportunity to heal and change. This is because we keep treating them in ways that elicit the same unsavoury behaviors from them. We literally reinforce the neuronal connections in their physical brain that cause them to act the way we hate. Basically, we’re part of the problem we think they have.

On a physical level, our bodies completely regenerate themselves every 2 years except for our brain cells. Even though brain cells don’t regenerate, current scientific research has proven that the brain is highly plastic, that means easily changeable! The way you judge and perceive actually follows patterns in your brain and you have the power to change them by choosing (forming a habit) to think differently. These changes, in turn, actually cause the brain to direct changes in the body on a molecular and cellular level. Transformation. This is how mental and physical healing occurs.

Jesus knew that the way we think and judge affects not only our social and emotional well-being, but our individual and collective physical health too. 2000 years ago he gave us a formula to create better lives, but most people never implement it. Will you choose differently? Judge Not.

Automatic

Why You Should Stop Trying To Save People

think-colorfulIt’s sneaky the way filters clog up on machines. You can’t usually see them without first taking things apart, but it’s important to notice the signs of a blockage before the system starts to fail.

The mind is a filter for a machine called the ‘body’. Malfunctions of the body are like the engine light in your car turning on; they’re a warning. The crazy thing is that rather than clean or change the filter, we’ve been trained to believe that we just need to throw some more chunks  (like medicine or maybe surgery) into it and everything will be ok. Really?

Lately I’ve found that my mind-filter is getting clogged with a gunky belief system about obligations. Growing up Christian, I’ve become a professional at depriving myself of blessings, joy and abundance in the name of service to others. What I hadn’t truly considered until now is that every single person on the earth has access to the same infinite, never-ending, Eternal Resources that I do. The scriptures are plain and clear about that.

The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone, regardless if they’re Christian or not. Everyone, on some level, ‘knows’ that God exists. The infinite, all-powerful God of the Universe didn’t assign me the role of being the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life, but oh, how my ego likes to think it did!

For example, I still feel like I need to save my sick, dying father, a man who has chronically shut himself off from Holy Guidance. Consider the insanity of this; if Holy Spirit hasn’t been able to get through to this man, what makes me think I can?!

As my body begins to show wear and tear under this heavy burden, I feel compelled to rinse the filter of my mind so that I can come back to my senses! Literally…my senses. Have you ever noticed that when you’re living out of false duty and not your spirit that you begin blocking out what your senses are trying to communicate to you?

Headaches, sore joints, lethargy, lowered immune system, fear and anxiety are screaming at me to “do something!!” and I’ve not been listening. The filter is slowly, insidiously, getting more and more clogged.

NO! We are not asked to sacrifice our blessings and health so that someone else can be well. God is infinitely abundant and there is more than enough for everyone. We can’t make choices for others. Thinking that we can somehow change or save other people is vain, manipulative and misguided. Wash that gunk out of your filter right now!

Let Holy Spirit do the work in others.

Let Holy Spirit do the work in YOU!

Filter