Updated: Jun 20, 2021
Jesus was and is the most authentic person alive. He is the finest example of the true self. Everything in Jesus’ character reflected the image of God. As we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, our true identity emerges just as God created us to be.
Psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches that the true self cannot be created, worked for, or earned. Our true self already exists and only needs to be awakened and rediscovered. You may be asking, “If I was living out of my true self, what would I look like?” I know my weaknesses and my strengths. I don’t have to be perfect or be good at everything. I make clear statements of beliefs, values, and priorities and I behave and live accordingly. I address difficult and painful issues and am able to take a position on matters of importance. I state differences and allow others to do the same. I have close emotional ties to significant others, that means I have long–term, intimate relationships. I have developed a great capacity for love and I feel no need to control others. I give others freedom to be who they are and I give myself freedom to be who God made me to be. My identity is rooted in God’s truth, not in what others think of me. I can therefore act out of love and not fear.
When we know God created us, we have the ability to trust Him deeply. We don’t always understand what He is doing, but we have the ability to listen to and hear His voice. Although we experience hard times, we live in great joy and peace because we know He will bring us through.
Unfortunately, most of us live out of what we call the false self. The false self often develops in our early years, when we learn to live out of skewed or unrealistic values in order to cope. Eighty percent of our beliefs and values come from our family of origin. Within a family system, there can be unspoken rules which can be shaming, abusive or damaging to a child. Shame and abuse can alter the true identity of a child. A child is usually helpless to know how to cope. In order to survive, a young person will move into a false identity and by the time they reach adulthood, the true self is like a distant memory.
The false self is birthed in fear and lies. The false self does not have attachments that are healthy and life–giving. Someone living in the false self has a lowered ability to love and be loved and may not be capable of intimate long–term relationships, like friendships or marriage. He or she will seek to validate themselves with excessive self–promotion, praising themselves and justifying their actions. They live in illusions and preoccupations. They may try to control their environment and everyone around them. They feel very insecure and have limited ability to communicate their own needs.
Many people living in the false self are externally referenced. That means they base their worth on outward things: their performance, their possessions, their perfect children, the material things they have, their bank account, their big house, and the friends with whom they associate. They are name–droppers and tend to be perfectionists. Their whole identity stems from the outside, not what’s inside.
Some of us may be living someone else’s script for our lives. We were told by a parent or a person of authority who we should be, how we should act, what we should do with our lives, and it was all to make our parent or that person of authority look better. People living under someone else’s expectations are particularly prone to addictions and compulsions because they’re trying to quiet all the pain that’s in them because of feelings of shame or unworthiness.
The reality is that the true self can emerge only if we feel loved and safe. We can help create that loving environment where a person is offered understanding and a sense of being valued intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We are careful not to judge; instead, we affirm and encourage people and draw them out of their false self. As parents we need to recognize the values, gifts and the beauty in our children and affirm those qualities. As prayer ministers, through our Listen, Love and Pray model, we have the great joy of helping people move into God’s original design for themselves and their identity.
Holy scripture is important in this process of transformation. Familiarize yourself with the scriptures like Isaiah 43:4 “You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you.” Speaking truth from the Word of God over people brings life and breaks the power of the enemy.
Immerse yourself in the words of Jesus. Jesus is truth Himself. He comes into our lives and cancels the power of the lies we believe. He gives us the courage to let go of the security systems we have put in place to protect ourselves.
Lord, we are all on a healing journey. We all need to be called into life. We all need people in our lives that will rise up and help us discover the true self that You created within ourselves. Help us to love and encourage each other. Help me to be that person who affirms others, loves them, listens to them and shows the healing heart of Jesus to the world.
Written by Judith MacNutt, Christian Healing Ministries