Who am I?
“Christ…is the image in which we are able to recognize ourselves because we remember who we truly are.”
(Fr. Marco Rupnik, Examen of Conscience)
Surfing through varied email digests, I realized I had not received one from SoulsAndHearts.com for two months. Now in September, Google created algorithms that diverted 600,000 ‘dangerous’ emails to spam folders in all its Gmail accounts. For example, my emails from SpiritualDirection.com were all diverted to spam because they contained the scary word that denotes domestic terrorists of the Catholic persuasion: ROSARY (the October 7 Rosary Crusade was promoted in each). However, I don’t know why my Gmail unsubscribed me from Dr. Peter’s email digests.
So I went to their blog to see what I had missed, which was a lot! I randomly (or so I thought) selected an article, Mirrors and Identity: The Hardest Question. Dr. Peter gives biblical and practical examples to explain the difference between self concept and self image:
“Your self concept is what you have chosen to believe about your identity – how you conceptualize yourself in your intellect, it is who you profess yourself to be.
In contrast, your self image is who you feel yourself to be in a particular moment. Self images are much more impressionistic, much more intuitive, more emotionally driven, very subjective, and more dynamic.” (Dr. Peter Malinowski, September 28, 2022)
He provides a modified version of an exercise called The Mirror Interview, in which you interview yourself standing in front of a mirror. He also has recorded a voiceover of the exercise.
The first question is: Who are you? I thought, who am I? I am loved by God, Jesus’ beloved, and proudly the daughter of James and Helen Black. Contrary to what the world teaches, I am not my accomplishments; rather, those are manifestations of God’s gifts to me. I’m just me; that’s who I am.
Next, Who do you see in the mirror? I see a 61 year old woman whose every wrinkle is a trophy of a long life, both lived and survived.
Third: How does it feel to look at yourself in the mirror? Neutrally comfortable. I have neither aversion to nor obsession with my looks.
Then, Describe the body you see in the mirror: I first see the things that are prominent: a twitching right side associated to nerve damage from chemo in 2008. Facial skin combining both pigment-less patches and brown patches due to vitiligo. My previously-cute Irish nose inherited from my Grandmother now disfigured due to incompetent care at our local hospital. Yet underlying it all I still look like me, the way God made me. And I can still smile. 😊
Last: Do you feel that the image in the mirror reflects who you are? Absolutely. It is the real me, nothing cosmetically altered or colored. I look my age; I have never tried to look or be someone I am not. The image in the mirror is a woman who is tired but still standing; always happy regardless of life’s challenges.
My responses would have been quite different in earlier stages of life. As a youth, I experienced a greater disparity between knowing my intrinsic value and dignity (self concept) and feeling valued or dignified as I lived out my day (self image). As parents and siblings age, families tend to continue reinforcing the negative images placed upon one another rather than growing into a healthy understanding of God and themselves. The work world, particularly the corporate environment, can also bring out the worst in people further reinforcing false images held since childhood.
All of this makes concrete a somewhat skewed perspective of self, God, and others. It affects the ability to develop relationships. We need our perspective to be shifted 180 degrees, seeing from God’s view rather than our own. In our gospel this Sunday (Luke 20:27-38), Jesus does this to the Sadducees. They look at eternity from the perspective of human law as lived in their daily life. As Pope Francis explained it, “It is not this life that will serve as a reference point for eternity”. Jesus is teaching us to understand our lives from the perspective of eternity, specifically His resurrection and our own.
“We are on a journey, on a pilgrimage toward the fullness of life, and that fullness of life is what illumines our journey! Therefore, death stands behind us, not before us. Before us is the God of the living, the God of the covenant, the God who bears my name” (Pope Francis, Angelus, 2013)
If I am looking at the God who chose to bring me into eternal covenant with Him, deigned and designed before I was even conceived, and who has kept me and sustained me every moment of my life through thick and thin…that is the God I need to know intimately. It sheds new light, His light, on my current situations and past experiences. It is only through God’s eyes that I can come to truly know myself and from that be able to love others.
At the end of time when Jesus returns, our bodies as God made them (not as we’ve changed them or wish them to be) will be reunited with our souls and either spend eternity with Him or be eternally separated from Him in Hell. Each day we have this choice: to be transformed by God or to become more hardened in the false images and concepts stored in our mind and heart. Either one or the other will happen every day. Live each day with Heaven as your end-goal.
“Finally, to develop a profound eucharistic spirituality that is also capable of significantly affecting the fabric of society, the Christian people, in giving thanks to God through the Eucharist, should be conscious that they do so in the name of all creation, aspiring to the sanctification of the world and working intensely to that end.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
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