During vacation I finally read a book I've been meaning to read for a while, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, by David G. Benner.

God has used that book to challenge my understanding of myself, my true self versus my false self. To be honest, I didn't think I even had a "false self". I thought of myself as rather authentic in most ways, without pretense. After reflecting on some of the book and his suggested exercizes, however, I'm convinced that I have a very real false self, and it often mascarades as a very spiritual and righeous true self.

One of the questions the reader is asked to ponder in an effort to discover his or her "attachements" which help to define our false self, the self we wish others to see and attribute to us, is "What makes you angry in other people?" What makes me angry is dissension in the Body of Christ. What makes me angry is disunity and carelessness with words toward other sisters and brothers in Christ.

Now, this is a very real, biblical concern. But, to my shock, I realized that what was really going on in my anger was a desire to control things, to have them my way (okay, I'm pretty sure this is obvious to others, but seeing yourself as you truly are is much more difficult than seeing others as they are!). I have been lableing these issues with spiritual titles (disunity, disharmony, dissension), quite often, but that is not the whole truth. I get angry because others don't conform to who I think they should be and who I like to perceive myself to be. If Benner is correct, then, my false self is about, in part, being perceived as a leader who has it all together, whose people will follow him wherever he leads, who is harmonious in all his relationships and only wants what God wants.

I don't know. I'm still processing this, but I felt this was as good a place as any to do so. What I've just written above doesn't really get to the heart of the matter, I know. Not yet, anyway. There is still some self-discovery yet to go.


At 10:14 AM, Blogger Luke said...


Hmmm... interesting. Is this the primary insight you gained, or the one you choose to share here (grin)?

I'm not sure how this whole "false self" thing works because I haven't read the book, but if it is supposed to be universal - that is, you show your false self in varying degrees of intensity to everyone - then I'm not sure the false self you identified is real (he, he, he). Everyone I know that knows you sees you as a humble person who is willing to confess - even from the pulpit - that you don't "have it all together" and you aren't "harmonius in all relationships". That honesty and humility is part of why people are willing to follow you. The days of the "in control, has all the answers" spiritual leader are fading. Your genuineness is what is important...

I'm on a journey in which things I thought were mature and well-thought out even just a few months ago, I now find intolerably narrow, self-absorbed, and smug. That is part of why I quit blogging. I look at things I've said and done even recently, in front of a CF class or a service (QV) and wonder if I didn't do more damage than good; I wonder if my faith will ever be effective, or have the significance (not importance) I desire.

Letting go of your desires for control - and thus frustration and anger - is probably a good thing, as long as it doesn't take away from genuine biblical concern. That is a fine line. I'm not sure how I could feel concerned about something of major significance, like dissent, without feeling some frustration - especially when the dissent comes because people aren't keeping things in a holy and spiritual perspective. I'm not sure what you're supposed to feel in that situation.

There appears to be some support for the position that even Jesus Himself was truly frustrated - if not irritated - by people who didn't "get it."

At 5:57 PM, Blogger stacey said...


Thanks for the thoughts. The question in showing humility from the pulpit can become another way of portraying a false self, don't you think?

Concerning looking back and being amazed at my "intolerably narrow, self-absorbed and smug" self is a part of the process, I think. I know I OFTEN see these things in sermons I've preached; I cringe at how I must have sounded when I said what I said. I suppose that's a good thing, though. It would be worse to constantly think how right on and effective I was.

Jesus was indeed frustrated by slowness of his followers and the religious authorities. Frustration and some of the things that make me angry are "right", no doubt. But, what I'm after is not the rightness of the issue, but the "me" that wants to make it an issue. How much of my making it an issue and making my frustration known paints a better picture of ME before others. Make sense?

It's complicated, I know. Like I said, it's all still in process and I hope to grow in my understanding. All I know is, after reading the book and reflecting on it a bit, I am re-appreciating God's love for me and how much that means to me and should define who I am over and above any other concerns and false selves I might have to deal with. I am a sinner saved by Grace and loved by God, just the way I am. Thanks!

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Luke said...

...at least you haven't called us a "brood of vipers" from the pulpit... yet...

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Dan Boyce said...

I guess I have another book to add to my reading list but at the risk of shooting in the dark, and being late for this since your posting is now seeral weeks old, still here is something to through into the pot... how real can a passing shadow be? What do you do with the idea that we are really just so much smoke, a bit of steam, a passing cloud. I appriciate the thoughts you have raised here Stacey and Luke and being myself a westerner of the 20th/21st century USA find myself caught up in the whole issue of self-identity. There is the public me and as much as i may try to be as real as i possibly can, yet in the end, I really don't know just what that means. I loved Kline's "hermenutic of identity" talk from Midwinter and wonder how his discussion fits here. Finally, I have come to rely more and more on the words of Micah concerning justice, mercy and humility especially in the context of worship (Micah 6:6-8), Kline's idea of worship as identity maintenance, and the thoughts you've expressed here.
grace and peace, Dan


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