Being our true selves | Inquirer News

Being our true selves

/ 06:06 AM November 26, 2011

We often hear people comment, “How can I do or say this if I don’t feel like doing or saying it?” “How can I forgive that person when I don’t feel forgiveness in my heart?” and “How can I even greet that person when I don’t feel good about him or her?”

It is not a generalization, especially in the high-tech material world we live in, to say that feelings are becoming the basis for one’s actions and decision in life. Benedict XVI observes, “In an age in which calculating thought is celebrating the most amazing triumphs, man is nevertheless threatened, perhaps more than ever before, by thoughtlessness, by the flight from thought. By thinking only of the practicable, of what can be made, he is in danger of forgetting to reflect on himself and on the meaning of his existence.” (“Introduction to Christianity”)

Man’s overdependence on material things tends to make him rely more on the “materiality” of feelings. This sentimental trend—common to both young and old—becomes a subtle but corrosive attitude in life that places convictions, commitments and important decisions at the mercy of one’s feelings or emotions. Perhaps, one of the gravest consequences of such an outlook leads individuals to gradually lose their identity because they fail to develop an integral personality and character, which are the principal ingredients of one’s identity.


Now every man possesses a personal and creational identity, since man has not caused his own existence means that he is created for something by Someone. Man’s true identity, therefore, lies in the sincere unfolding of his freedom following these creational designs towards the perfection of his identity and purpose in life.


For a Christian, this is enlightened and enriched by the baptismal calling. Through baptism he acquires an identity of being God’s child and receives a mission to perfect himelf and others as well. In one word, as a son of God, he is called to aspire for the highest state of identity of becoming perfect as his Heavenly Father is perfect.

The Christian’s true self on earth is being God’s son, but it will only attain its fullness in Heaven depending on how he either corresponds to it or not. While he lives, the son of God must strive to refine his supernatural identity. This is something he manages through the exercise of virtues.

It is precisely anchoring ourselves on virtue, not feelings, that we are consistent and mature in our identity. Living virtue allows us to “override” our “unfeelings” towards persons, commitments and happenings. It is so enlightening that even though we “don’t feel like it,” we must make the effort to “act as if” because of the awareness of what our deeper identity as God’s children invites us to do.

Edward Leen explains “to act as if” wonderfully when he says: “There is a great virtue in this principle of acting as if. Men tend to develop feelings corresponding to their actions. The successful effort to wear a smiling countenance induces an inner disposition of pleasantness and amiability. Thoughts in their turn are influenced by feelings and finally actions bear the impress of thoughts.” (“Progress in Prayer”)

Thus we are being our true selves, because we struggle to keep at bay what our human respect, comfort-seeking attitudes and false excuses try to mask the “image of Christ” that we have inherited in baptism. Thus, Leen says, “It is a common temptation to judge that it is dishonest not to bear oneself outwardly as one is (or believes one is) inwardly. This judgment contains a profound error. There are in us two selves, the true and the false. We are more conscious of the latter than the former, and that is the reason why the false appears to us to be the real self.” (Ibid.)

Leen concludes, “We are really false in our bearing and untrue to ourselves when we act and speak according to the unspiritual promptings in us. That character is not acting hypocritically but acting in the very reverse manner, who carries himself outwardly in all the relations of life, as a being that is spiritual, of heavenly tastes, though he ‘feels’ anything but that interiorly. Furthermore, by constantly acting spiritually he becomes spiritual.” (Ibid.)


When we choose to decide and act consistently according to our identity as Christ-bearers, as Christ Himself in the midst of the family, work and leisure, then we avoid being hypocrites—hollow men who mask their true self with a false one—before God, ourselves and others. This is true even if the world may not reciprocate our genuine response of charity, forgiveness and compassion that we offer our fellowmen. What is here more important is living our life according to God’s expectations and not men’s.

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