Have you ever been annoyed when a spiritual guru has told you to do some self-exploration? I think that’s fair. There’s enough self-absorption in our country that when another Christian pastor or spiritual leader tells people to “look inward” or to “know thyself” that it sounds like New Age Narcissism. Often times, Christians object to this sort of counsel with quotes from Jesus about dying to self, Paul’s exhortation to sacrificial service and the like. But in a book on the integrity of the soul, A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer adeptly highlights the importance of being self-aware.
I have traveled this country extensively and have met many people. Rarely have I met people with the overweening sense of self the moralists say we have, people who put themselves first as if they possessed the divine right of kings.
Instead, I have met too many people who suffer from an empty self. They have a bottomless pit where their identity should be — an inner void they try to fill with competitive success, consumerism, sexism, racism, or anything that might give them the illusion of being better than others. We embrace attitudes and practices such as these not because we regard ourselves as superior but because we have no sense of self at all. Putting others down becomes a path to identity, a path we would not need to walk if we knew who we were.
Palmer, Parker, A Hidden Wholeness, pg. 38
He urges us to know our authentic self, and to live with integrity. He says we often live a divided life swayed this way and that by the external pressures of our peers or the internal expectations we put on ourselves. We do things that don’t fit with who we are out of obligation, guilt, or shame, and often time it is eating us up inside. In this book, Palmer pushes us to live an undivided live. He encourages us to live in such a way that we have a Hidden Wholeness. I’m excited to get through it all!