I believe I mentioned awhile back that I am reading Henri Nouwen's 'Life of the Beloved.' It is a splendid book, and I very much like reading Nouwen. This book in particular actually comes from some writings he sent to a friend who was searching for meaning in life. I remember from back in my seminary days seeing Henri preach on this subject on the old 'Hour of Power' Robert Schuller telecast.
(Link for the 8-part series on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFWfYpd0F18&list=PLACE9C7BAF6FA2D75; Link to another site: https://www.ohioilluman.org/ohio-illuman-news/2015/8/16/henri-nouwen-life-of-the-beloved)
Anyway, in this first post on the book I want to include a lengthy section from the chapter "Being the Beloved." It starts on p. 31 and runs through 33.
"Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.
When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking: "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others' limitations, I tend to blame myself -- not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says, "I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned."
Maybe you think that you are more tempted by arrogance than by self-rejection. But isn't arrogance, in fact, the other side of self-rejection? Isn't arrogance putting yourself on a pedestal to avoid being seen as you see yourself? Isn't arrogance, in the final analysis, just another way of dealing with the feelings of worthlessness? Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain.
I know too well that beneath my arrogance there lies much self-doubt, just as there is a great amount of pride hidden in my self-rejection. Whether I am inflated or deflated, I lose touch with my truth and distort my vision of reality.
I hope you can somehow identify in yourself the temptation to self-rejection, whether it manifests itself in arrogance or in low self-esteem. Not seldom, self-rejection is simply seen as the neurotic expression of an insecure person. But neurosis is often the psychic manifestation of a much deeper human darkness: the darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence..."
Wowzers!!! That is some powerful stuff right there. He looked me straight in the eye and called my name out loud. This is so much my struggle, and somewhat always has been. I can trace this back through my life to my earliest memories as a child.
I also think this is the reason I spend so much time in the spiritual disciplines. I need to constantly be guarding against the negative voices I hear, and doing everything I can to get in touch with the "still small voice" that whispers my real name.
It is a battle, but it just might be the most important one in all the world.