Self as an Original Image of God
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
I think the process of working towards a solid self is really a mystery. (See last’s months post for the first part of this conversation). Not in the ethereal, inscrutable sense, but in the sense that each person is a unique individual, a totally irreplaceable reflection of the Divine, an original person made in the image of God.
This mystery of the human person is a part of the equation of togetherness and self. In fact, Edwin Friedman, a psychotherapist and rabbi who taught Bowen Theory (from which the concepts of self and togetherness come) thought that this variable of self was what “could account for the differences, inconsistencies and mysteries that result from human will.” (1) Given free will, the mystery of what each of us will do with that choice is up to us.
I’d like to think that the apostle Paul speaks of this mystery when he says, “Brothers and sisters: Thus should each one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We are each stewards of the mystery of the unique image of God that He created us to be. In the face of the current mounting pressure for togetherness, I find the rest of this passage from Paul also helpful:
“Now it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself (…) but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore I do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:1-5)
Worrying how others will judge oneself or getting wrapped up in judging one’s own self can be a road block towards becoming more of a self. Paul is really not worried about what others think of him – and not because he doesn’t love the community, but because he is convicted that his first source of knowledge about his self comes from the Lord. It is this security that gives him the freedom to act courageously and work steadfastly towards being a trustworthy steward.
Again and again, I find myself returning to this conviction of the mystery of self as rooted in God in order to work towards being more of a self. Indeed, without that conviction and keeping my connection to God front and center, I don't know that I could make any significant moves towards self without giving into the togetherness pressure or anxiously cutting off from others who disagree. Whatever your faith or value system may be, being connected to something greater, something more objective and transcendent than oneself, can be a great resource for someone working on becoming a more solid self.
And that may be the key to navigating the pressures for togetherness and self in anxious times: finding a way to lead towards self that is both grounded in what you believe and what you think, yet also open to others and connected with them. And this can be quite a challenge! To take a stand and make a move towards self without folding before the pressure of your family or distancing from them, or while keeping up with the news in some moderate way, or even while keeping your self open to what “they” have to say about a certain polemic topic...that is no small thing. Friedman put it this way: “The very presence of differentiation* in a leader will stir up anxious response. Yet in staying in touch with the capacity to understand and deal effectively with the system is – beyond vision, beyond perspicacity, beyond stamina – the key to the kingdom.” (1)
If you’d like to sort through your own steps towards self, please feel free to give me a call.
Rachel E Gardner, LPC Intern 512-238-1700 ext 310 firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Friedman, E. (1999) A Failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. New York, NY: Church Publishing, Inc. pp 185-186
* “Differentiation of self” is way of saying becoming more of a self