A couple of weeks ago I posted about the potential Spiritual Wounds that result from our desire to belong, leading to promoting a False Self that suppresses the follower’s True Self. I don’t mean to imply that following a faith tradition means you are living an entirely False Self life. And I don’t mean to imply that everyone is equally impacted in how they follow their traditions.
I thought today I would give a personal anecdote to illustrate this phenomenon.
Back in the 1970’s and 80’s there was something called the “Day on the Green” in the San Francisco Bay Area. These were outdoor daytime concerts at venues like the Oakland Coliseum. The lineup of bands was usually pretty amazing. One of these concerts included Chicago (my favorite band then and now) and the Beach Boys. I was 19 years old, and some friends invited me to go. Instead of just saying, “YES, absolutely” (an expression of my True Self), I asked my father if it was ok for me to go. The fact that the concert was on a Sunday became an issue. Dad asked me if the concert was a suitable exchange for my attendance at church. With a deflated heart, I said, “No, I guess not.” (in that moment, my False Self) And I told my friends that I would not be joining them. I was torn between wanting to join my friends (my True Self) and my commitment to going to church (my False Self). Of course missing one day of church was not going to condemn me to hell. And all the friends that were going were members of the Youth Group, so they would be missing church. A point I made to my father with no desired change of heart. I missed the concert.
I’m not suggesting that going to church was my false self. There was truth and sincerity in my commitment to this aspect of my being a Christian at that time in my life. But in this instance, the “choice” to forgo the concert for the sake of church was not my truth. I submitted in order to maintain my perception of belonging. To go against my father would “jeopardize” my belonging to the family and my belonging to the church, at least that was my perception.
In the early scenes of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the female protagonist, Elizabeth Swan, invokes “parlay”, a part of the Pirate Code that keeps her captors from harming her before they deliver her to their Captain, so that she can negotiate her freedom. When the Captain refuses to return her to shore, she asks “What about the code?”. Captain Barbosa replies that the code is really just a guideline, which he is free to interpret. What brings out the False Self in faith traditions is when the guidelines get concretized into a code that has no wiggle room. There are some aspects of the different faith traditions that are open to interpretation. Some obvious examples are attitudes towards how we dress, our relationship with alcohol, attendance of worship services, etc. In the denomination in which my parents were raised, they were not allowed to play cards or go to dances or watch movies. Today, cards and movies are frequent family activities when we get together, and there was absolutely dancing at my niece’s wedding last year.
Did you put on a False Self as part of how you followed your faith tradition in order to maintain a sense of belonging? Do you still find yourself dealing with overcoming a False Self even after leaving that tradition? Join me in the journey of Healing From Spiritual Wounds to expose those wounds and bring healing into your life.