I and “I”: The Challenge of the False Self

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“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith.”  

(Galatians 2:20)

“The integration of the ‘I’ into ‘the body of Christ’ (the personal and communal reality that is divine communion), is not the self’s dissolution but its purification and the actualization of its authentic state of existence.”

– Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Merton and Jung both spoke often of the true self and the false self. Jung called the false self the ‘persona’; the self we present in public to get along or to exert power and control. The problem is, it is easy to confuse the false self for the true self. Merton spoke of the lifelong process of discerning the difference between the two. This is harder than it seems and it is never done. We will all go to the grave with the majority of our delusions intact. The great saving grace comes when we at least recognize this, stop defending it, and ask God for help. Such a request is never ignored.

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God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us completely, as we are, not as we think we should be. God sees the original self beneath all of our masks and defenses. Every person’s deepest identity is that of God’s own true beloved. Living from this incredible truth in faith is the way to freedom. It is also the way to love one another. So where there is love there is hope.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(1 Corinthians 13:13)

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