Condemning the True Self and Becoming a Pharisee

by Mark Votava


I am learning to take responsibility for my own feelings in life.  Most of the time negative emotions are shunned and looked at like they are bad, but I don’t buy it anymore.  The church wants people to be happy, put a smile on your face and pretend everything is okay when maybe it isn’t.  Maybe I feel unhappy about the lack of authenticity, honesty, vulnerability and truthfulness I sense around me sometimes.

We seem to use God for our own agendas.  I feel sad.  My sadness is revealing to me how I have a need of connecting with others authentically which is not always being met.  So my lamentation is teaching me to reimagine a way to connect with others that is healthy, life-giving and inspiring.

  • Taking responsibility for myself

I have not been taught how to take responsibility for myself.  I have not been taught to feel my feelings, especially if they are of the negative sort.  Sometimes I feel so much anger, depression, insecurity, irritability and sadness that I don’t know what to do.

“We may have been taught to be responsible for other people,” says Melody Beattie, “but not responsible for ourselves…”

  • Sad, difficult and frustrating

Being responsible for myself is hard.  I want to control others so much sometimes that I don’t know how to be responsible for myself.  I get lost many times as I do this kind of stuff in everyday life.  It is sad and difficult and frustrating.

  • I struggle to believe in a God who is love

I want to accept myself so I can be happier in life.  Loving myself is so important for me as I didn’t received a lot of love when I was younger.  I struggle to believe in a God who is love.  But I know there is some reality to love in the world.  This is one thing I can hold onto in the midst of my confusion and struggle.

  • Accepting ourselves

Amy Hollingsworth writes, “…if we accept ourselves we are better equipped to accept our neighbor.  So accepting ourselves is always the starting point to something greater – a deeper maturity,… and ultimately, a greater acceptance and understanding of our neighbor…  How we see ourselves affects how we see others.”

  • Allowing my life to be broken open to compassion, love and grace

In the midst of it all I am allowing my life to break me open to compassion, love and grace.  I do not want to respond to my life with hatred, apathy, fear, cynicism, hopelessness and isolation toward the world I find myself in.  This is bull shit and pulls me away from my true self – which is authentic, honest, compassionate, embodies humility and love instead of arrogance.

  • Each of us has a choice

Erin S. Lane states, “Each of us has a choice in how we will respond to our heartbreak.  We can either let it take us out of the action in favor of a simpler life where we belong without question or question without belonging, or we can let it lead us into more of a vibrant life in which the contradictions of our faith open us to the death of illusions, the suffering of community and the resurrection of our real selves…” 

  • The death of illusions

These death of illusions in me are difficult and most of the time I don’t think I can take it anymore.  But they are necessary in me.  My true self cannot come to life without this death of what is made up of illusions.  The resurrection of my true self, the real self that I am is powerful and mysterious.

  • The true self made up of what is authentic

This is God’s gift to humanity, the true self made up of what is authentic within us.  The true self is the greatest hope for the twenty-first century world we live in.  The church tries to keep it down, condemn it as a heretic, bury it, conceal it, deny it, but God is leading us into the unknown authenticity of the true self.

  • The true self is the foundation of community

Any form of community can only be cultivated by those connected with the true self within us.  The true self is the foundation of community and all authentic expressions of love.  Without it we become Pharisees – the religious ones who Jesus constantly confronted because of their lack of love in the name of God.

Have we experienced our true self in life?