More from Brennan Manning’s book…
“As James Masterson has written in The Search for the Real Self, ‘The false self plays its deceptive role, ostensibly protecting us – but doing so in a way that is programmed to keep us fearful of being abandoned, losing support, not being able to cope on our own, not being able to be alone.’
The impostor lives in fear … Impostors are preoccupied with acceptance and approval. Because of their suffocating need to please others, they cannot say no with the same confidence with which they say yes. And so they overextend themselves in people, projects and causes, motivated not by personal commitment but by the fear of not living up to others’ expectations.
The false self was born when as children we were not loved well or were rejected and abandoned… To gain acceptance and approval, the false self suppresses or camouflages feelings, making emotional honesty impossible. Living out of a false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us. The impostor’s life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of elation and depression.
The false self buy into outside experiences to furnish a personal source of meaning. The pursuit of money, power, glamour, sexual prowess, recognition, and status enhances one’s self-importance and creates the illusion of success. The impostor is what he does.
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Our false self stubbornly blinds each of us to the light and the truth of our own emptiness and hollowness. We cannot acknowledge the darkness within. On the contrary the impostor proclaims his darkness as the most luminous light, varnishing truth and distorting reality. This brings to mind the apostle John’s words: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’ (I John 1:8, NIV)
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Impostors draw their identity not only from achievements but from interpersonal relationships. They want to stand well with people of prominence because that enhances a person’s resume and sense of self-worth.
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The sad irony is that the impostor cannot experience intimacy in any relationship. His narcissism excludes others. Incapable of intimacy with self and out of touch with his feelings, intuitions, and insight, the impostor is insensitive to the moods, needs and dreams of others. Reciprocal sharing is impossible. The impostor has built life around achievements, success, busyness, and self-centered activities that bring gratification and praise from others. James Masterson, M.D. stated, ‘It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real self emerge.’
Why does the impostor settle for life in such a diminished form? First, because repressed memories from childhood that laid the pattern for self-deception are too painful to recall and thus remain carefully concealed … The second reason the impostor settles for less life is plain cowardice.
We even refuse to be our true self with God – and then wonder why we lack intimacy with Him. The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. We are made for God, and nothing less will really satisfy us.
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The false self dreads being alone, knowing ‘that if he would become silent within and without he would discover himself to be nothing. He would be left with nothing but his own nothingness, and to the false self which claims to be everything, such a discovery would be his undoing.’
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As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others – and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer… Accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self.
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When we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace.
With a graciousness and an understanding of human weakness that only God can exhibit, Jesus liberates us from alienation and self-condemnation and offers each of us a new possibility. He is the Savior who saves us from ourselves. His Word is freedom … Jesus discloses God’s true feelings toward us. As we turn the pages of the Gospels, we discover that people Jesus encounters there are you and me. The understanding and compassion He offers them, He also offers you and me.