“Learning to desire God's will is not something we can accomplish by resolve and willpower. It occurs only when we live so close to God's heart that the rhythm of our own heartbeat comes to reflect the divine pulse” ―David G. Benner
Like many of you, I have struggled with false messages about God and myself. During a time when I was ready to leave these message behind I read the book The Gift of Being Yourself by Dr. David G. Benner. In this book, Benner discusses the concepts of our True and False Selves. The True Self is the part of self that is inherent to our God given design. It is not afraid to be authentic and it certainly lives with the freedom of being perfectly imperfect. The False Self is created out of fear, rejection, and perceived inadequacies. It tries to earn esteem with spectacular demonstrations and by collecting shiny things.
While I explored my False Self, I knew it was important for me to understand what allowed me to splice away from my True Self. I learned about a process called mirroring. Mirroring is a feedback loop that subconsciously tells us how others appraise our worth.
Let me share a story to characterize this process. At age 6, I sat reading with my best friend at the time, Artudo. We were fascinated by Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the children’s book series. Our bellies vibrated with laughter as we read to one another on our favorite neon green beanbags. Eric, a peer of ours, noticed our giggles and scoffed at our delight in one another. It didn’t take Eric long to gather the attention of a small group of boys who began teasing us. “Sissies,” they called us.
That was the last moment I spent with Artudo. From that point on, he wanted nothing to do with me.
The feedback I had received from that group of boys and Artudo’s distance was that my company not only threatened masculinity, but that it was dirty and should be avoided. Mirroring had taken place and I had received negative feedback. I was left feeling like I had to hide my ability to laugh with and enjoy another boy. My False Self had been reinforced.
Mirroring, unbeknownst to us, categorizes not only our behavior, but also the emotional cravings we express. We subtly learn that, when we ask for certain emotional cravings such as affection, acceptance, or being nurtured to be satisfied, some will meet our needs and others will not. Those who meet our needs mirror our emotional cravings as valuable. Conversely, those who leave us feeling emotionally hungry have mirrored that our emotional needs have little significance. Negative feedback promotes the belief that we have to try harder to earn love, thus creating the foundation for one spectacular False Self.
Mirroring is a fundamental mechanism that literally alters not only the classification of what we crave emotionally, but also the way in which we craft our own self-understanding. Mirroring gives us the ability to trust our True Self or reinforces our man-made False Self. Essentially, mirroring places us somewhere on the continuum of knowing, “I belong” or “I am valueless.”
In Falling Upward, Father Richard Rohr wrote something that reminds me to orient my mirroring not on the opinions of humanity, but on the essence of my God-given identity. He writes:
“We have to let go of the passing names by which we have tried to name ourselves and become the “naked self before the naked God.” That will always feel like dying, because we are so attached to our passing names and identities. Your bare, undecorated self is already and forever the beloved child of God. When you can rest there, you will begin to share in the universal Christ consciousness, the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).”
Knowing the True Self means cherishing the whole self without conditions. God does this for us and it’s this type of unconditional love that is the ‘mind of Christ.’
Uncovering our True Selves requires that we identify the life-long lies of the False Self. We have to be willing to trust that when God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, God chose the right material (Psalms 139). The fabric of your essence was intentionally and intricately chosen by God. That is one powerful dose of mirroring that can free us from many of the lies we have experienced throughout our lives!
Several weeks ago, we asked you to complete a survey. Question 2 asked you to respond with how GCN has been a blessing in your life. Here are some beautiful responses that serve as examples of learning from positive feedback:
“It (GCN) gave me a gay Christian community that I could grow in and be myself.”
“Affirmation that I am loved and not alone”
“The conference is a place where I feel like I can totally be myself...and I'm not even LGBTQ+...I'm a parent.”
The GCN conference is a powerful event that will help you uncover your True Self. It is our conference goal to increase awareness of the mechanisms that keep us trapped in our False Selves, as well as how to deconstruct them. As you prepare for conference, or wonder if you’re going to attend, consider how mirroring may have left you feeling like you may only be as good as your False self.
- What life lies do I hold as truth? In other words, how was my False Self created?
- What are the decorations that I must be willing to drop if I am going to live out of my True Self? And am I willing to do so?
- What are the ways I need to practice trusting God and my loved ones with my undecorated True Self?