Monday, September 13, 2010

So are you precious or abhorent in the eyes of God?

I will lay my cards on the table -- I am convinced the answer is always "precious".

There are, as some Buddhists say, two truths here.  That is to say, there are two layers which may appear indistinguishable from a superficial inspection.

One is the false self, which in Buddhism is sometimes translated as ego, which is generally not viewed as being strictly the same as the classic psychological concept.  It's more like over-identification with and a distortion of what psychology defines as the ego.  In the absence of a full realization of and actualization of an awareness of our connection to the wholeness of life, of our mutual interdependence with all things (which we can call an awareness of God), the ego comes to see itself as a complete whole, fully autonomous with an intrinsic existence.  Hence, it looks solely to itself for a sense of meaning, fulfillment and happiness.  Ultimately this fails and gives rise to unhealthy, sometimes compulsive, and even destructive behavior.  This is the central problem that such religions address, albeit in different ways.

This distinction between the true self and false self is especially confusing in Judeo-Christian scriptures, where one set of verses says how beautiful we are to God and another says we appear vile and repulsive to God.  The latter examples are used by purveyors of hate and self-righteous condemnation and which, when used in this way, cause so much damage to people. 

An unchecked false sense of self limits our potential and frustrates our capacity for joy and belonging we all seek at some level.  This causes us immense pain and confusion, and is the instigator of the worst of human behavior -- what we call evil.

This is what the prophets of ancient Israel and the apostles of Christ decry as offensive to God -- our incapacity to enjoy our full and true selves, to grow into our greater potential.  It is precisely because we are so precious to God that such invectives are directed against the false self.  Of course, there are those who are simply petty and judgmental and some verses may reflect these imperfections in a few of the authors of such verses, but this doesn't account for the same author talking both about our infinite value to God and God's disgust with us.

The strong language used to condemn this false self may have been (and may still be) needed to break through the self-assurance and delusion of some distorted egos, but such passages should never be used as rhetorical weapons nor without the greater context of God's unconditional love, which is termed agape in Greek and caritas in Latin.

This helps us to better understand teachings such as those found in Luke 9:24-25, with my comments in brackets (and a nod to Fr. Thomas Keating):

For whoever wants to save his life [false self] will lose it [true self], but whoever loses his life [false self] for me will save it [true self]. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world [the limited and limiting world he believes is real], and yet lose or forfeit his very [true] self?

This can be also be interpreted as asking what good it does to get ahead in this life only to lose out on the next life, so long as we have a sufficient understanding of what "this life" and "the next life" really mean.   If heaven is the enjoyment of the presence of God and hell is the anguish of the presence of God*, then we can get an idea for how such a teaching can inform us about the coming of the kingdom of God within us.

(*Some say hell is the absence of God, yet if God were absent one would cease to exist.  What is absent isn't God herself but our capacity to accept and receive God's full love and the healing and the freedom it brings, which leaves us stuck in a view of existence that is open to endless pain and despair.)


  1. Thanks Tiny. I found this article today when I found another way through the 'false' self. It spoke to me and I am grateful for where I find myself.


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