Toward Spirited Self-Image.

How should our belief that God dwells within us, revealing us to ourselves, calling us to growth and giving of Himself, impact our attitude toward ourselves? We should see ourselves as caught in the weaknesses of our human condition BUT empowered by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as being wounded BUT being healed by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as being in conflict with the forces of evil BUT being guided by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as powerless BUT being gifted by the Spirit. The spiritual life is a life of living the dialectic.

Further, we must hold these opposing self-images of ourselves in creative tension, not in some diluted form, but at the same time fully acknowledging our weaknesses and fully recognizing the Spirit’s empowerment. For example, like the alcoholic we must admit ardently our powerlessness, and simultaneously believe fervently that the Spirit is near and Self-giving. The result? Our opposing self-images convert one another to create a newness in us. A dynamic growth process takes place!

Wounded But Being Healed.  In Man Becoming, Gregory Baum says that no one can escape totally personal woundedness. Our human woundedness make us compulsively relive unresolved conflicts of our past. Our woundedness makes us unconsciously inflict hatred and anger on people whom we respect. Our woundedness makes us clamor for massive revenge against people whose disagreement with us is only slight. We do foolish and destructive things not simply because of our exaggerated self-love, but because of our hidden self-hatred.

However, the Gospel promise to us is that the Spirit will enable us to become healed. Embracing both our woundedness and the Spirit’s healing power in creative tension creates a deeper AWARENESS of both our woundedness and the Spirit’s call to healing.

Conflicted But Guided. Jules J, Toner, SJ writes: “Any vision of human life which does not see it as a life of conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, spirit and flesh, Christ and Satan, has lost the Scriptural vision…” He says that the great spiritual masters believe in “a personal force of evil, trying in opposition to God to make those who have turned to God to lose heart and to turn back again, or at least to give up on striving toward a life totally open to the Holy Spirit.”

However, the Spirit guides us through the conflict of our thoughts and judgments and feelings.  Living our life of conflict and guidance by the Spirit in creative tension creates a keener sense of DISCERNMENT between our inner conflicts and the Spirit’s guidance.

Powerless But Gifted.  In scripture we read: “Without Me, you can do nothing: with Me you can do all things.” Emphasizing the gift dimension of life, Baum writes: “Human existence is so deeply wounded and threatened by sin that the passage from fear to trust, from hostility to love, from ignorance to self-knowledge, from passivity to creativity, from self-centeredness to concern for others, are never purely natural events, determined by our own resources. They are always supernatural; they are always gifts.”

Living with our powerlessness and the Spirit’s giftedness in creative tension creates an ever-expanding OPENNESS to both our powerlessness and to God’s giftedness.

With God’s Spirit dwelling within us we are never exclusively human. There is both a human dimension and a divine dimension to us. Our self-image must take into account both dimensions. To ignore the divine dimension is to deny the Spirit in us. To ignore the human dimension is to live a very dangerous, naive life. The only true self-image for us is a Spirited self-image. Adopting that image changes our attitude toward ourselves as well as our attitude toward others, with whom we share our divine humanity.