I’ve known too many people whose sense of self was painfully fragile. When we humans are subjected to repeated abuse or to challenges that feel far beyond our ability to cope, a shaky identity often develops. Urging an overcoming of self in these situations seems exactly the wrong advice.
Sometimes, folks just might need to move in the opposite direction. Like a plant growing in rocky soil or beneath an unrelenting sun with little water, sometimes a person is taxed to the extreme. The life force remains, but the vessel itself is wobbly. In these situations, tender loving care is called for. Nurture is needed, not a further weakening.
Many religious traditions, both east and west, encourage the relinquishment of self. I can accept that this is where we are all ultimately headed. Our tiny drops of individual identity will eventually merge into the immeasurable stream of Infinity. And with that merging, we’re told, will come the supreme realization that we were never separate at all.
But, hey, I’m talkin’ about you and me on this earth, housed in these clay bodies, with our sometimes perplexing personalities. Whether our lives have been unduly harsh or not, I think most of us might do well to first claim the small drop that is ours and live that life to the fullest.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” If this is true of the body, would it not also be true of our personal identities?
We are each unique jewels, specialized facets in the unfathomable design of the cosmos. Every one of us has a singular part to play in that overall design. Discovering who we are and deeply embodying our role seems one of the most important tasks of our lives.
A quote from another Francis comes to mind. “Do not wish to be anything but what you are,” St. Francis De Sales urges, “and try to be that perfectly.”
So, how do we discover who we are, and by what means do we grow in our ability to more perfectly express it in the world? The particulars of that answer are likely as diverse as we are. Yet, if we begin with the idea that it is Spirit that animates us, then strengthening our connection to Spirit would be an essential first step.
Saints and sages live united with the Divine, and act from this awareness with apparent ease. The rest of us, though, must consciously and diligently build that relationship and renew it regularly.
As we touch this Essence more consistently, our individual selves will be brought into better balance. Those of us who need to let go, will be better able to let go. Those who need to strengthen will find greater stamina within their reach.
Whichever direction this process takes us, the world will be more fully blessed by our presence. With Spirit as our steady and true guide, we’ll shine out more vividly as the unique jewels we were intended to be.