Know Yourself So That You May Know God

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

 This is a transcript from the April 7, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

We're going through a new series called-- The Quest For A Well-Ordered Heart. We're trying to figure out, just not the stuff in our lives, not the stuff in our houses, but the stuff in our hearts. How can we order that properly so we can be the most complete human beings that God created us to be. Today we're going to talk about the shadow self. The shadow self I'll explain to you a little bit.

It's one of those moments that- have you ever felt like somebody else? Kind of like Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde here. When you've done something or you've said something and you said, "Why did I do that? Why did I say that? That doesn't seem like me. That's not something I would do." That's what we'll talk about today. For me, I remember a time when I was younger since I don't want to use an example from adulthood. 

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

Over time I felt like, "Why did I do that? That doesn't make sense. That's not me." I was so angry at my older brother at one point, I don't even remember what our argument was about or anything. I was so angry. What I ended up doing was going up to his room, and I found-- I don't know if kids still do this, but we used to trade class pictures with our friends. He had all his pictures of his friends in his room. I found those and I just started tearing them apart each one.

I got in big trouble for that and then afterwards, I felt extremely bad. I remember even at that age thinking, "Why did I do that?" That seemed really mean. It seemed out of character for me. I was like, "What was the point?" There was no point to it for me. Those are one the moments in my life that I felt like, "That just doesn't seem like me."

It's those moments like that where I tore the pictures, or we've been exploring that for years in our culture in our society like with Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde here. We also have a more modern interpretation of Dr. Bruce Banner and the Hulk, that there's this monster inside of us that's just waiting to break out. You can't control it. Once it comes out, you certainly can't control it once it's free.

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

This is something we've talked about many, many times. We're going to call it today the shadow self. It can be called the disowned self, we could talk about it as the ego. Today we're just going to say 'Shadow Self', because that is something that Carl Young had used. Carl Young is a Swiss psychiatrist that describes aspects of the personality that we choose to reject and repress as the shadow self.

The things that we think are bad or dangerous aspects or attributes of our personality, we just shove down and put away and unconsciously don't know they're there anymore, even though they come out in certain ways. It consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions, so impulses like: rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power. Those are some of the ways it comes out in our own lives.

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

You may not be aware of these pieces of your personality that you've put away, that you've locked somewhere down in a basement or in the heart, but they're there. They're parts that you reject. Rather than confronting something that we don't like, our mind pretends that it doesn't exist. In some ways, maybe our ego shows a little bit of it, but unconsciously there's a whole world underneath it yet of things that we are storing away of our shadow self.

Aggressive impulses, maybe taboo mental images, shameful experiences, immoral urges, fears, these are a few examples of shadow aspects of our hearts. Things that we all have, but we don't like to say we have. Those shameful or guilty things that we think of. Now, these are some behaviors of the shadow self. We'll walk through them.

Harshly judging others almost impulsively.

Nobody ever does that. [laughter] Maybe you've seen seeing somebody at work or a family member, this happens in families quite a bit, where you harshly judge others for doing something, saying something. It just comes easy. You just do it right away. It comes easy to you.

Pointing out flaws in others.

We don't do this either, right? We like to point out flaws mainly because the flaws we see in others are flaws that are in ourselves that we don't like to admit.

A quick temper with people in subordinate positions.

Some of us have done that, right? Where either those of us that have worked in a service industry before, you've witnessed it. That we feel like people who are doing jobs that we think we can do, we treat in a different way. In a lower way. We have a quick temper with them also. Has anybody yelled at a Burger King cashier before? I won't make you raise your hands, don't worry.

Four, frequently playing the victim.

This is the part of you that says, "I'm never at fault. I'm always the victim, somebody else is to blame constantly."

Unacknowledged prejudices and biases, because we all have those.

There isn't a person that can say, "I don't have any of those. I'm the most open person in the world. I'm the most progressive person in the world." That doesn't happen. We all have certain prejudices in some way or form, or biases.

That's something we can admit right away together, that we all have that from our own experiences. Those are the ways that this shadow self works, it works itself out of us. What we most often do is that we project it on others. Like I said a little bit earlier, usually, the flaws we see in others, that we get upset with, they're flaws that we see in ourselves. If you got upset at somebody for being rude, maybe you haven't dealt with the rudeness inside of you yet.

That doesn't mean the person wasn't rude, or that you had to forgive them for being rude, but in some ways, looking inside of ourselves of like, "Why was I upset with that?" Because most oftentimes, it's something that we're struggling with ourselves, the things that we get upset with others. We're not mostly aware to these projections.

Herman Hesse, is a novelist and a poet. He said, "If you hate a person, you hate something in them, that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." Oftentimes, if you ever see somebody on TV, or you know somebody in your life, at work, or in your family that just drives you nuts, maybe you don't have hate in your heart for them but maybe there's an annoyance. There's something you just don't like about them, you don't trust them. Most oftentimes, what you see in them is very similar to what's going on inside of you, and you haven't dealt with it yet and you don't know how to deal with it. You're able to point it out in others before you're able to point it out in yourself.

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

We act this way because we create our own moral code of what we think is good, and we suppress all the other stuff that we think is bad. All of us have different ideas of what being good means. All of us have our different ideas of what's bad and what's hiding within us. What does this have to do with Jesus? What does this have to do with the scripture today about the hypocrites and the people praying on the street corner and making a big deal out of things?

Well, hypocrites, we most often think are people that say one thing and do another, right? I think the hypocrites that Jesus is pointing out in this passage today, the main sin for them is that they are using their spirituality to try and get a claim and publicity and love and adoration. They're using it for the wrong reasons. Jesus is pointing out their ego, they want to be recognized, they're trying to puff it up, they're trying to please the shadow self. They're trying to make up for something that they haven't dealt with inside of themselves yet.

When we give and when we pray, when we fast in public, it's not for our benefit or God's benefit. What happens is when we want to it do in public and announce it to everybody, is that we want to make ourselves look better. In ancient Greek, around this time close to this time, one of the things was patronage. What they would do is publicly do acts of kindness, publicly good acts that would show that they are a good person, and they would be rewarded for it in many different ways.

What Jesus is encountering here is people that are saying, "If you do this in public and people see you, you're going to be rewarded, you're going to have a greater status in our community but people need to know what you need to show it." That was puffing up of the ego. This is the feeding of the shadow self, of the desires for only yourself. We do everything we can to put a mask on a persona covering up the things that we deem, irredeemable.

Most people know hypocrisy when they see it, but almost without fail, they see it in others and not themselves.

It's easy to point out when somebody is praying on the street corner and Jesus says that you're not supposed to do that. Then what do you think humans did after that? They'd go out and start pointing out the people that were doing that right, just like we do. Instead of looking at ourselves, what are the things that we're doing that create hypocrisy in our lives and people around us?

Spiritual disciplines are not a practice to feed our ego, but instead, they're supposed to be done to gain a greater, deeper spirituality, a relationship with God. To uncover this person God created us to be, to uncover that image of God that lies within all of us. Instead, what we love to do as humans, we love to take those things and twist it around and use it for our own selfish purposes.

Chuck DeGroat wrote a book called The Toughest People to Love. He's also a Professor of mine at Western Seminary. He said this about the Adam and Eve story. After they sinned, God greeted Adam and Eve in the garden with the words, "Where are you?" The spirit asks the same question of us. Indeed, it takes a lifetime to answer, but God is committed to finding us, loving us and restoring us for the sake of the beauty and blessing of His kingdom.

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

Our shadow self is a part of us. It's a way that we push back, so we're not accepting our whole selves in some ways, but God is continuing to pursue us to let us know the ways that we can discover ourselves. He tells us in this passage which says, "It's not by praying on street corners. It's not by boasting about the things you give, it's not by fasting and telling everybody how tired you are."

It's by doing those things maybe in private. Not that it's bad to let people know about it, but in private so that the reward you're getting is the reward between you and God. That spiritual fulfillness, that would be vacant if you're boasting in public. We're all hypocrites in some way. We're all the hypocrites babbling on the street corner. By the way, that's one of my favorite passages in the Bible. There's certain translations that say, "They're babbling on the street corner."

I just think that's fun, but it also keeps me in check. It keeps, me as a pastor, most pastors just keep us in check of like, sometimes you just need to shut up. You're just babbling on. You keep saying things and we already get it, move on. There's something in our lives for each of us that it rears its ugly head once in a while, and then we asked the question, "Why did I do that?"

Which brings me back to the Incredible Hulk. If any of you know me, I like superheroes. I like Marvel. If you've been in my office, I have all these bobbleheads on my window sill of all the different Marvel Super Heroes including the Hulk. There's this scene in the movie The Avengers, when Tony Stark, who's Iron Man meets Bruce Banner, who's the Hulk. They're both smart guys, so they're sharing all the sciences stuff.

Know Yourself So You May Know God - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO Church

Then Tony Stark talks to Bruce about the fact that he has this- I don't even know what that's called this thing in his chest. This thing in his chest, what it's doing, is it's keeping shrapnel from going inside of his heart. It basically works as a magnet to keep the shrapnel from moving any further. He says, "This is something that I've had to learn to live with, but this is a terrible part of me that every second if this doesn't work, I have shrapnel threatening to kill me."

Bruce Banner says, "Yes, but at least that's something you can control."

Because for him, the Hulk is something he can't control. He doesn't know how to deal with it. Tony Stark said, "Because I learned how to control it." Bruce Banner in the scene is denying that shadow self of his. The Hulk is that illustration of that. He doesn't want to deal with it. He wants to do everything in his power to avoid it. If any of you have seen the movie, at the end, he learns how to embrace it and help save the world. There you go, we can go home.

Your shadow self is going to help save the world. That's just kind of something. We have to work with our shadow self. It's worth knowing it. It's worth knowing how to control it because otherwise, it's going to control you. It's going to come out in weird ways like I've said earlier that you're going to say, "Why did I do that? Why did I say that?" We need to learn how to recognize it, and control it.

This is the goal that Jesus is talking about. It's not about you. It's not the way you believe yourself to be, but the person God created you to be, your true self. That learning how to deal with that shadow self, bringing those things to light ultimately helps you to see the image of God that you are and that you are created to be. By reviewing the darkest parts of ourselves, we begin to see that our relationships improve.

When you work to heal and integrate your shadow you find that you stop living so reactively and unconsciously, thereby hurting others less. When you work on the darkest parts of yourself, you have a clear perception of the world and who you are in it rather than reacting to everything. How do we do this? What are some practical ways we can start dealing with this?

One way is center yourself, as Jesus said, Pray in secret.

Work at giving and doing spiritual disciplines with you and God as a way for you to start shedding some of that stuff because it's going to be hard to ask of you to start shedding all your shadow stuff in public right away. Nobody wants to do that. Centering yourself with God and learning who you are in the image of God, who are you as a child of God, helps center yourself in your life.

There's things you can do with that. That's why we do a contemplative prayer here every once while. It helps us recenter ourselves on God and where we are in life, and what we're supposed to do for the Kingdom of God.


How many of you are hard on yourself when you make mistakes? I think all of us are in some way or form, but learning to have self-compassion for those moments when you make mistakes, having self-compassion, helps you be able to go to those darkest places and deal with it.

If you don't, you're never going to take that out and deal with it. Because that's a mistake and you don't want that seen, or that's an ugly part of you and you don't want that around. Having self-compassion, practicing love on yourself that Jesus has for you.

Cultivate self-awareness.

Maybe that's something we badly need just in our culture in general. Being self-aware of the things you do and how it affects others.

We're built into a system and a society that it's mostly about the individual, about what you're doing. That's how your world starts to rotate around, is that you're only thinking about what you need to do next, and the things that are going to benefit only you or your family, but hardly ever wondering how it's going to affect the wider circle around you. Cultivate self-awareness of why you do the things that you do, recognize those things.

Be honest.

True self-honesty means willing to see unpleasant attributes in our behavior and personality. In my own life, I know many of you who are married, you've learned that in some ways you have to humble yourselves in marriage that you have to say the times when you're wrong, even if you're not sometimes.

Being honest also, at times when it feels like you have been jerk, when you have been unfair to that person in your life that you love. Or maybe it's in your family with your kids, just being honest with them and yourself and saying, "You know what, I shouldn't have done that. I reacted this way because this felt very-- this made me feel threatened or this made me feel fearful."

Being honest in ways that you haven't been before. Because most of the time what do we do when we do that? When we get upset with a loved one and lash out or be a jerk, we kind of just shove it off to the side, or we let enough time pass that you don't even talk about it. Being honest with yourself and with others is one way that you can start dealing with your shadow-self.

It's often uncomfortable to come to terms with the parts of yourself that you don't like or you think are bad. When we begin to understand even the most complex and dark aspects of ourselves, we start to discover the parts of us that are true and the parts that are lies that we have believed for a long time. When we begin to shed the shadow-self, we begin to understand our true self, a child of God, the image of God on this earth for others.

A light in the darkness, a way to reflect the love of God to this person. The person God created you to be, participating in the reconciliation of all things with Christ. Today, as we come to the table together, think about the things in your life, the parts of your shadow-self that you need to lay here that when we connect with God, that this is something that we need to leave here or we need to own, so that God can do a greater work within us.