Vale of Tears

Resisting Excessive Self-consciousness



Resisting Excessive Self-Consciousness

To be no part of a body is as to be nothing.
John Bunyan

Long before the days of polished mirrors, when proud knights admired their reflections in wayside pools, and sought to catch the eye of favoured maidens, the seeds of today’s image-conscious society were already in flower. Most of us today are so concerned with our self image that it is bound to affect the way we handle that most self-absorbing of emotions: grief.

All of us have our own ways of projecting the image of ourselves that we are eager to convey. Those of us who have an inflated sense of our own importance, however, or who crave position and admiration, are likely to find the impact grief has on us particularly hard to bear. Considering how lacking in empathy some people can be towards the grieving, it is easy to see why we may be tempted to adopt subterfuges that enable us to “manage” our image. To some extent we all do this, but there is a considerable risk of this process becoming self-deceptive as we begin to hide – even from ourselves – just how much we are hurting.

If we find ourselves continually acting a part, it may be because we are trying too hard to impress. This can continue after we are no longer in contact with these people, or even after they have died. It is important for our future freedom that we do not allow their wishes to influence our lives unduly.

Juggling all that needs doing from day to day is hard enough, without having to worry about how we are coming across to others. We might fare better if we paused to ask why it is that we are so concerned about our image. Is it because we are lacking any clear sense of our own identity? Are our efforts to keep things under control causing us to avoid relationships that actually could and should have been mutually beneficial?

It is only a small step from here to falling prey to something that is particularly displeasing to the Lord: hypocrisy. Those who suppress their pain, rather than lean into it, all too frequently end up turning to artificial stimulants or sedatives. We can only sound already well publicised warnings. Alcohol may induce relief in the short-term, but its long-term legacy leaves people almost invariably wracked with guilt.

If our ultimate aim is to avoid situations that “tarnish” our beloved image by exposing our anger, anxiety or anguish, we may well find ourselves making light in public of our loss. In reality, almost any loss represents an enormous body blow.

Reflect and Pray

A friend once compared our minds to a hard disc that uses up so much of its memory servicing its own operational needs that there is little room left for any new data to be added. We spend so much of our time and energy thinking about how we look, and how we are coming across, but if we could just get our focus more off ourselves – how much more time and energy we would have to give to God and to others!

Lord, hearts that are fully focused on You,
neither foment regrets
nor foster the envy that honours greed and pride.

Why fence in scorn and freeze out love
when You call us to lay such things aside?

O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
Eternal Comforter, draw near;
restore the threads that hold our hearts to Yours,
and lead us to Your throne.