Community, Faith, Formation

Monday Meditation: On Authentic Selfhood

“Hold still, we’re going to do your portrait, so that you can begin looking like it right away.” -Helene Cixous

These words are chilling, and rightly so. The idea that we position ourselves to begin looking like a version of ourselves that someone else has determined is best  is no less than frightening. Cixous, a brilliant feminist theorist, meant for these words to scare. She isn’t into this version of self-creation.

Yesterday, in our meeting, I read this quote by Parker Palmer:

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts–then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting mothers [or fathers] disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others…Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”

In our meeting, Liz challenged us to think the of  “love” and “vocation” as intimately tied. Brother Pat challenged us to unplug and cut out those things that make it hard to hear the quiet voice calling us into full life.

We need to position ourselves in relationship to people, objects, events, studies, activities, and ideas that challenge us, but also that call us into our authentic self–not the self given to us by the the world that exists outside of us, and often only wants to use us.

Where do you see love in your life?  What in your life is “too loud”? Whose voice in your life is “too loud”?  Where do you feel the most joy and also the deepest service to the world? What is the picture that is being painted of you? Does the picture conform to the reality of the self that is trying to emerge from you? How can you best position yourself to discern your next steps, steps that bring life to you and to others?


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