Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seeing Yourself Truthfully


The following is an excerpt from Henri Nouwen's journal "The Inner Voice of Love." I'll make some comments afterward:

You continue struggling to see your own truth. When people who know your heart well and love you dearly say that you are a child of God, that God has entered deeply into your being, and that you are offering much of God to others, you hear these statements as pep talks. You don't believe that these people are really seeing what they are saying.

You have to start seeing yourself as your truthful friends see you. As long as you remain blind to your own truth, you keep putting yourself down and referring to everyone else as better, holier, and more loved than you are. You look up to everyone in whom you see goodness, beauty, and love because you do not see any of these qualities in yourself. As a result, you begin leaning on others without realizing that you have everything you need to stand on your own feet.

You cannot force things, however. You cannot make yourself see what others see. You cannot fully claim yourself when parts of you are still wayward. You have to acknowledge where you are and affirm that place. You have to be willing to live your loneliness, your incompleteness, your lack of total incarnation fearlessly, and trust that God will give you the people to keep showing you the truth of who you are.

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I think Henri makes a couple of important insights in this excerpt. For many of us there are times, even if we think we're spiritually mature, when we get knocked off our foundation and forget who we are. We forget that we are radiant children of Light, that we are loved and irreplaceable. Many things can knock us off course: the loss of a job, an illness of a loved one, a break-up of a relationship, etc. We thought we were past all this crap, but here we are again. Nouwen says, firstly, to learn to rely on the judgments of your closest friends, those who know you. As vulnerable as this may make you feel, you know your friends and that you can trust them. For now, make them your mirror. When you stand before them, trust that they will reflect back to you who you really are.

Secondly, Nouwen says to not beat yourself up over how you feel right now, and to accept it. Accept that you feel like shit right now, and that life is hell. This can be very difficult for those of us who are on the spiritual path because we feel like we should always be trying to improve ourselves. There is nothing wrong with being positive, but the truth is, life is not all happiness and sunshine all the time. Feel your feelings deeply. Allow yourself to feel like shit, yell, scream, cry. To not do so is only suppressing or burying your true emotions and they'll inevitably show up later, whether it's a few days or a few weeks.

Accept where you are, and surround yourself with those who know you best. They will hold you until you can see your true self again.