As we were raised to believe ourselves to be false identities called “egos,” we were raised within a system of reward and punished to conform to the ego’s rules prevailing at the time of our upbringing. As these rules changed throughout our lifetime, we’ve done our best to adjust to the changes based on the same core principles of reward and punishment. We seek reward and avoid punishment as best we can, unless we become convinced that there is reward in being punished, a reversal that happens often.
The twisting changes required of us to adjust our actions and reactions to conform to the unstable rules of the ego eventually twist each of us into a pretzel of confusion and despair. We become convinced that there is no way to sort out the twists and turns of our lives and move forward along a simpler, straightforward path. Convinced of the futility of sorting out the confusion we’ve adjusted to, we seek instead to become masters of the realm of confusion – by whatever dishonest means our mastery must be achieved. Although it is impossible to consistently enjoy mastering confusion as our way of life, we seek as best we can to do so on the basis of reaping as many rewards and avoiding as many punishing consequences of mistakes as we can. This is the ego’s game. Within it, pride is a reward and shame a punishment. There are other rewards and punishments, too. Our goal becomes to experience as much pride and avoid as much shame as we can manage. It’s an impossible task to achieve with any degree of reliability, but we’ll silence anyone who attempts to tell us that we’ve not done it well enough.
There are many ways to silence those who might tell at that our egos’ efforts to amass pride and avoid shame are inadequate. All of them are forms of punishment we seek to allocate to others of whom we do not approve because we believe that they do not approve of us. Within the ego’s realm, social approval becomes our demigod. We reward those of whom we approve and punish those of whom we do not. How we allocate rewards and punishments reveals how we judge ourselves and the values we hold dearest. Yet, we prefer to think that we are judging others and evaluating their values instead. We are blind to our truths and the manner in which we reveal them in twisted ways as we struggle through life according to the ego’s pretzel plan.
Thus it is that we come to hate those who truly try to help us unravel the ego’s pretzel plan and straighten out our lives to live in simpler, egoless ways. Actually it is our egos that hate being uncloaked and exposed in this way. It feels painful to have our egos revealed to us. It feels harsh and cruel simply because one of the ego’s main agenda items is to remain unseen and unchallenged. When a helpful person challenges our ego, the challenge causes us to look at what the ego prefers we do not see. Because we’ve come to completely identify with our ego as if it is truly who we are, we believe that the ego’s shortcomings are our flaws, even our “sins.” The ego’s reaction is defensive, an attempt to make the helper regret having offended our ego.
To defend our ego (as if we defending our true nature instead of a false substitute), we may directly attack the helper in ways to make the helper feel pain or we may dismiss the helper in some manner to avoid having to deal with him or her. We justify our defensive maneuvers by the ego’s primary justification: “It’s not fair,” so the ego says, “for ‘me’ to feel shame or guilt or any other painful emotion that it has taken ‘me’ so much effort to deny exists.” So long as we allow our ego to think, decide, communicate and act for us, we will remain confused and at the mercy of the ego’s pretzel plan.
The helper’s dilemma is that the shame or guilt that the helper brings to light by challenging the ego is already at work within the person being helped. It’s already buried in that person’s heart undermining that person’s health and happiness. Yet, the burdened person does not know of this buried toxin and continues to deny its existence as best he or she can by resorting to the ego’s standard operating procedures. “Do not be that honest with me,” cries the burdened person whose ego-based reactions are rooted in fear. The burdened person mistakes the honest helper for the person who originally inflicted the pain and now attacks or dismisses the helper as the burdened person could not (but would have liked to) attack or dismiss the pain-inflicter earlier in his or her life.
No truly helpful person can avoid triggering painful memories and raising to awareness buried painful emotions from their tombs within the burdened person’s heart. These tombs are hallowed ground, enshrined pockets of holiness within the burdened person’s heart. To help a burdened person to resume being aware of his or her true nature as an innocent, holy child of Love, the helper must eventually lead the burdened person to look at and address these buried pockets of his or her heart and resurrect the qualities of life entombed there.
So long as the ego is allowed to maintain its guardianship of these entombed qualities of tender holiness, the burdened person will remain burdened by buried grief and a victim of his or her own perceived grievances because he or she will remain blind to his or her natural innocence and holiness — as well as to the natural innocence and holiness of others. The ego insists that none of us is innocent and holy. It insists instead that all of us are guilty and unholy, often beyond redemption no matter how great may be the power of redemption that is available. Its final defense is often to assert that the helper may be an exception to the rule and be in fact innocent and holy (a “saint” says the ego with scorn) but the burdened person cannot also be that way. From the perspective of that defensive posture within which the burdened person must remained condemned by his or her own ego, the burdened person hates and distrusts the helper all the more. Thus those who seek to lead us into awareness of the sacred life we all share suffer at the hands of egos the consequences of their efforts.
Let us salute those who risk being helpers who challenge the ego’s dominion at whatever risk to their own well-being may appear to happen. Jesus risked his own physical existence as a helper who challenged the conformist traditions of the egos of his day. Yet, what he risked losing was nothing compared to what he ultimately revealed is true of all of us. None of us are defined by or confined to our bodies as the sum and substance of our lives. As A Course in Miracles states more than once for emphasis, “I am not a body. I am free for I am still as God created me.” This insight is as true for you as it is for me as it ever was and still is for Jesus.
Let us confront our ego’s habits of crucifying those who come along to help us become free of our egos. Let us no longer hate those who seem to be such radical enemies of our egos and embrace them as lovers of our spirits who help our spirits rise free of ego’s tombs to soar into the light of God’s love – even while yet experiencing and expressing ourselves through bodily forms. In truth we have no enemies. Only our egos can perceive of our fellow pilgrims on the planet as anything but friends and helpmates. An honest helper is merely one whom we’ve dared to trust so much that he or she takes the risk of being honest with us and touches our heart with love — even when the touch reminds us of hurts we’ve tried so hard to forget we carry in our hearts. We are not betrayed when we allow our hurting hearts to be revealed and brought to the light of divine love’s healing and redemption.
© Art Nicol 2016
The tumorous tentacles of twisted ego-think, lent their power by false attraction, can be excruciatingly slow to die and fall away. Thank you for caring enough to lovingly wait and to be fully present through the process.
Like the octopus, the ego can even grow back tentacles lost in earlier battles. Vigilance is necessary to nip in the bud those tentacles we’d otherwise not notice growing back. For me, taking my personal inventory includes reminding myself of the array of personally attractive tentacles I cultivated in my past as my defensive identity and checking across that array for signs of the renewal of tenacious tentacles. They return like weeds to an untended garden. In my life, feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and resentment signal the potential regrowth of tentacles. It proves helpful to ask God to regularly purify my heart of such emotions so that they do not encourage tentacle regrowth. Oh, and plus, it’s helpful to watch out for the ink that can obscure my vision when I think of it as only hiding myself from others. My clouds of ink can hide my ego from myself as well. I thank God for the Divine Ocean’s currents that dispel clouds to allow for greater clarity of vision. Thanks for your illuminating dialogue.