01 April 2014

'Your Real Self'

I've been thinking a lot about the Self and the Other lately, and the relationship between the two. What makes for true happiness in oneself and true trust/love for and from others? What makes a person easy to be with, easy to live with, and what does not?

These themes have scattered themselves throughout my posts, and as I've learned I've recognized that I'm just as susceptible to self-centeredness and personal-pedestal-positioning as the next person ... not a comforting epiphany but definitely needed. By recognition, I can improve. I want to improve; because I'm not happy when I'm like that.

But how to break the habit? How to find the motivation to try again every day, with dogged determination? (Because when it comes to breaking bad habits, doggedness is about all that will do the trick.)

I saw a quote by C.S. Lewis over the weekend, and I think it sums up the grand, elusive secret we humans make of the quest for the true Self and the best life. Living such a life is harder than merely reading about living it. But I know I'm happier when I focus on the Other, to build them up rather than compare myself with them, judge them, etc.

I know I feel more love, for myself and for others, when I focus on our similarities and virtues rather than our differences and weaknesses — focusing on differences always leaves both parties lacking, whether in perceived qualities or in show of humanity.

I know who I want to be. I want to be my real, whole Self again. Do I even know the meaning of that phrase? I'm learning, a little bit at a time. But Lewis nailed it, I think.

“Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. 
"Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. 
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. 
"The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. 
"Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

This is Me. This is You. More importantly, this is Us. Not only what can be. What must be if the purpose of this world is ever to be fulfilled — if we are ever to be fulfilled.

It's a brilliant concept. Age-old. Lose yourself in order to find yourSelf. So counterintuitive. And yet it strikes a chord of truth within me ... as if some central part of my soul recognizes ... remembers...  this as the natural way to live in a perfect world. The way we naturally used to live. The only way we can live, truly, whole.

I feel at my most hollow when I am most focused on myself. I feel my most complete when I am focused on the happiness or comfort of those around me. I feel love grow when I show it to others rather than lavish it on myself ... for some reason, there never seems to be enough love to go around when the self is involved. It's a thankless feeling.

I've tried to follow this counsel, in little things, for a week now. And the results are real. I feel more peace; I feel more love; I feel more whole. I feel less drained and more interested in others. My relationships have improved. And I am happier, with the world and with myself. I want to continue. Because I feel more like the real Me than I have in a very long time. Far too long. In my prayers I thank the Lord for this blessing and pray for the doggedness to continue. Because deep down, this is how I want to be.

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