My previous post on the True and False selves is a prerequisite read to this post. I’m continuing on in this post and building on what I said previously. So, if you haven’t read my Adam + Eve post, please read that first, or this will not make sense!
1If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.1 Corinthians 13 (WMB)
4Love is patient and is kind. Love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, 5doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 6doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. 11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. 13But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.
Something I had not noticed until now is the context in which Paul talks about maturing and no longer thinking like a child. He makes this statement in the context of love. He begins in verse 1 by describing what many in the church today look and sound like. He then goes on to describe what love actually is—with attributes that we largely don’t see in the Western church or even in many “Christian” families right now. He then tells us that in order to “grow up”, we have to look in the mirror. He is describing the True and False Selves coming face to face with each other! Notice then what he doesn’t say will remain: knowledge, theology, etc. He actually says everything we think we know will be “done away with”. Most of us take verse 11 to mean a period of time—our childhood and adulthood. But Paul is talking about psychologically maturing. He “became a man” on The Road to Damascus. Note that he was already physically an adult as Saul when this happened, but still had the mind of a child. The same is true for many adults now. When he uses the word “child”, he’s not talking about being an 8 year old boy. He’s referring to his False Self. Some adults remain in this “childish” state until their physical death.
When we turn to look inward now, we may not be able to see our True Selves at all. But the first step is acknowledging that it is there in the first place…When you look in a mirror, there are always 2 separate selves, but only one is True. The other is an illusion. However, when we look in the mirror, the illusion is what we see at first. We only see what we look like on the outside. Our external is the illusion, or False Self, and we only see what we look like by looking in a mirror.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was known for his outer beauty. One day, he decides to get a drink from a pool of water and sees his reflection for the first time. He falls in love with his False Self—his external shell. This is where we get the word narcissism. It is only recognizing your False Self (your Ego/Superego) and falling in love with this external shell. Narcissus eventually kills himself because he cannot have the object of his desire. It is the False Self that he kills.
However, our True Self can only be known by looking in the mirror at our False Self. We have to first see and acknowledge that it is the False Self staring at us in the mirror. It is only then that we can make the split and recognize that the Self staring back at us is separate from our True Selves. This is what Narcissus fails to do on this side of earth. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 above, Paul describes his awakening with the mirror and says he can partially see his True Self. The Ego is still there for now, but there is a split and he can now view them as 2 separate entities. Only his True Self (love) will remain. Notice he says that his True Self has always been there. He just didn’t see it until now. He had to awaken to what was already there. He didn’t have to pray a prayer to accept his salvation or Jesus into his heart. He woke up to what had always been there, that he had not yet seen until then. His True Self, his essence, was always Love. He says he will fully know himself, even as he has always been fully known. This is Paul talking, by the way—the same guy who used to be called Saul…killing people. His Road to Damascus was the death of his Ego, the death of his False Self. Saul was his False Self. Paul was his True Self. He realized who he truly was. His essence was always Love. Paul was always buried underneath Saul. Surely, this is what it means to be saved! In his death and resurrection, Jesus revealed to Paul the meaning of his awakening on the Road to Damascus.
I saw too the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condoning his sin, which is in reality his utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in him. And this reverence must be paid even to those sinners whose souls seem to be dead, because it is Christ, who is the life of the soul, who is dead in them; they are His tombs, and Christ in the tomb is potentially the rising Christ…Caryll Houselander, A Rocking-Horse Catholic
I believe Salvation is not an exit ticket to get into the party in heaven after this life. It is the death of your False Self into the revelation of your True Self. The realization that you are already at The Party! Right now!
Step one to true love is discovering your False Self and realizing it is separate from your True Self—which IS love. Only then can you truly see others clearly enough to love them as well.
I challenge you to look in the mirror today and say “I love you.” If you cringe, have difficulty, feel uncomfortable, or find it almost impossible to do—that is the beginning of your awakening that you are “dimly” seeing your True Self. If you have no problem saying it because of your self confidence, but you are unkind to yourself when you fail…or you’re proud of all your successes…or think of yourself as enviable…this, too, should be an awakening that you’ve perhaps fallen in love with the False Self—just as Narcissus did (P.S. the latter was me).