WoW 100: On the false self, Meaningful Action, part 7 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 100: On the false self, meaningful action, part 7


This episode is part 7 in a series I'm calling Meaningful Action.

Part 1: On practicing awareness in the journey towards goodness

Part 2: On who are you becoming?

Part 3: On wise heroes

Part 4: On the value of virtue

Part 5: On small practices

Part 6: On changing course

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When considering how to live a life full of the most meaningful choices possible, it's helpful to consider the different parts of what make you, you. Throughout the Millenium, from theologians, to philosophers, to psychologists, to poets, people have given different frameworks to the idea that you have both evil and good inside you. Sin, the Flesh, Evil, Selfish Desires.

When looking inward, you must realize the simple truth that part of the process of becoming mature is a movement away from evil, and moving towards goodness. But this isn't merely a theory. This change must be lived, and it starts by seeing the parts within you that are difficult to admit.

Good psychology and good spirituality go together. As you discover God, you will discover more truths about yourself. Some of these truths about yourself are painfully difficult to acknowledge because some of these truths are admitting the ​depths of your darkness​.

As you discover more about yourself, you will discover more about God. This is the first two parts of how I most simply define recovery: ​connection to God​, self, and others.

A helpful framework for understanding the dynamics of darkness within you is the false self and the authentic, or true self.

The authentic self is fueled by love, curiosity, belonging, and courage.

The false self is fueled by shame, insecurity, anger, and fear.

The false self runs from fear. It shuns what is difficult to face.

The false self hides. It puts on a mask. It avoids conflict or responsibility at the cost of its values.

The false self does not reflect deeply on what it wants.

The false self lacks internal unity. It is a 'house divided' as Jesus put it.

The false self can cower and put itself "one-down" from others. This is a way to try to avoid responsibility, or conflict. It is often fueled by the belief “I’m not enough” or “I don’t have what it takes.”

The false self can puff up it’s chest and act stronger than it is. It’s a charlatan. Fueled by that same belief of insecurity, insignificance, and lacking a sense of belonging, it seeks to “fake it until you make it”. And it does this from a place of putting itself in a "one-up" position, measuring it's success and thinking it is better than others. It sees it's worth only in comparison to a competition based on envy and a lack of self worth.

The problem is that the false self believes it’s worth is dependent on what other people think, giving away its own worth to others and yet never finding others’ affirmations enough.

Seeking value based on what someone else thinks of you can be a black hole. Whether it is someone who doesn't really know you, or someone who is judging you out of their own wounds, these people are never pleased and cannot really affirm you.

It is essential is to choose carefully who you pay attention to. It does matter what some people think of you. Your spouse, your children, those who know you best.

You can know if you are fueled by shame, because encouragement will feel hollow. This is because inside, you feel hollow. You don't really feel known, seen, or valued.

The false self can over-promise. It will say what it thinks others wants to hear. One example of this is saying it will do something when there is no intention to follow through and actually sacrifice to do what the commitment requires.

The false self is a coping mechanism. It’s an attempt to navigate fear, wounds, difficulties, and uncertainty.

The false self tries to control outcomes. The true self shows up, does what it can, and accepts what is out of its control.

The false self is cunning and opposed to being discovered. It hides and seeks to cover its tracks with false narratives. The true self lives life in the open, ​humbly admitting​ mistakes, seeing ​vulnerability as strength​.

The false self has itself as the gravitational center of the universe: everyone revolves around itself. And it fears everyone because shame is at it's core.

Transformation occurs when the false self is replaced with the true self. This can feel like a kind of recovery of letting go of lies and fear-based narratives, and saying an inner yes to what is most deeply true in yourself and in others.

You can have compassion on the false self. Or you can react against it, hold resentment, and fuel self hatred. If you can choose to be compassionate towards yourself and others who are wearing a mask, you will have more peace. This compassion really blooms in a community that knows you deeply and gives you compassion. It shows you what is possible, and all you really need is one person who sees beneath the mask of your false self for you to begin to find freedom.

The way out of living fueled by your false self is a gentle and honest community, intentional times of solitude, and slow contemplative prayer.


"Solitude is the furnace of transformation."

Henri Nouwen, ​The Way of the Heart​

"Many of us take inventory at the end of each day. As we look back, we note what emotions we have felt throughout that day, checking whether particular emotions, such as anger or fear, took center stage. We take stock of our attitudes, the things we say to others, and whether we're taking care of our own needs. We look at any character defects or old habits that may have revealed themselves. We consider whether we have harmed anyone and need to make amends. We also find it helpful to remember the things for which we are grateful or things we have done well. Gratitude provides a needed perspective on our problems and helps us feel connected with our Higher Power. We ask God's help with the challenges that face us, while thanking God for the blessings of life and recovery."

SAA Fellowship, Sex Addicts Anonymous


When is the last time you had a vulnerable conversation where your darkness was exposed?

In what ways do you wear a mask?

How are you avoiding responsibility? How are you avoiding your strength?

Are you spending time in silence and solitude?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and prayers this week)


Solitude leads to authenticity.

Vulnerability leads to breakthrough.

Prayer leads to peace.

Live wisely,


Did someone send this to you? Do you want to cultivate more of the good, true, courageous, and beautiful in your life?

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