Words of Hope: True Self vs. False Self

One of my daily devotionals gives short segments from the writings of Henri Nouwen, a beautiful Christian author. He wrote many moving books, including Return of the Prodigal. One of my favorites is, You are the Beloved. Nouwen talks about the true self – the one beloved of God who values the things of God in contrast with the false self who is in love with the world and the things of the world. The true self is rooted in Christ, rooted in truth, and is unabashed by the criticism or adulation of the world. The false self craves external verification—the need to be admired, the need to be important, the need to be right.

I can often live in my false self especially over the need to be right. Dad’s counsel to me always returned to these questions, why does needing to be right mean so much? How is this righteous indignation helping change your life for the better? How do you know your assumptions are correct?

I am struck by how often I don’t know the whole story. I assume about others, but I am highly offended when they assume about me. HA HA! 

Dad believed all this assuming and imagined righteous affrontery obfuscated the real soul work. He called it a significant waste of time. He detested when players made statements such as, “My coach benched me on purpose to rattle my confidence.” He would respond, “Maybe, but who cares—that is a waste of your mental image. If your coach is that cruel, he will be judged and not by you. If you are wrong, you will be judged and not by you. Accusations based on assumptions reveal more about the inner struggle of the person accusing than it does about the person being accused.” Dad once again was able to cut to the chase.

His granddaughter, Bella, has a similar sensibility. When sent to the office for disciplinary purposes for not wearing the correct uniform socks, she was questioned, “Did you know that you were sinning when you put those socks on today.” Thankfully, she has Shann and my Dad’s quick wit and responded, “I don’t think it was so much a sin issue as it was a laundry issue.”

When my dear friend who is one of the most humble, Godly people I know was falsely accused, I burned with anger. I wanted to go to war. Dad had a different point of view. He said this person is a loyal follower of Christ, and nothing anyone says will come against it. Your agitation and anger do not lead to the righteous life God desires. If this person accusing him has made dangerous assumptions without all the facts, it will come forth. God sees and knows all. Basically, Dad was never worried or perplexed by assumptions of evil or accusations. He lived in the true self. He believed the only real daily question to ask with humility and obedience is, “Am I living truthfully before the Lord?” 

 “Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24