Today’s chapter was called THE IMPOSTER and is all about our “false self”. The imposter/false self that is preoccupied with acceptance and approval. The self that needs to please others, having a hard time to “say no with the same confidence with which they say yes.” Manning says on page 34 “And so they overextend themselves in people, projects, and causes, motivated not by personal commitment but by the fear of not living up to others’ expectations.” (ouch!)
Manning talks about a few things… about our narcissism, about self-importance, about needing to be noticed. He talks about how often “appearance is everything” and living life of pretense.
He quotes Augustine, who said “There can only be two basic loves ~ the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”
The imposter loves to draw their identify from personal achievements, but also from interpersonal relationships with others – wanting to stand well with prominent people because it raises their “status” or their “resume” and for sure their “self-worth”. In my years of working – in both the secular and in the ministry, I have seen this, and also have allowed my imposter to do this as well. I think more so in ministry I saw it, when people sided up to the “rich and famous” in order to also get in on some of the fringe benefits. Somehow I didn’t get into those circles…. I think it was because I was called into the ministry without a degree or without seminary, and so I automatically was not included into those networks. (even though I didn't get the invites, I struggled with that...I have to say I struggled A LOT with this – with feeling “less than” others who ministered with a degree. I felt an insecurity. I felt rejection. (whether just perceived or actually happening, it none the less felt very real to me!) While this feeling got less over time, it was still there every time I got up to preach. I think it was God’s way of keeping me humble.
Manning talks about when he was in retreat in the Colorado Rockies and heard a message from God. It went like this: “Brennan, you bring your full presence and attention to certain members of the community but offer a diminished presence to others. Those who have stature, wealth, and charisma, those you find interesting or charming or pretty or famous command your undivided attention, but people you consider plain or dowdy, those of lesser rank performing menial tasks, the unsung and uncelebrated are not treated with the same regard. This is not a minor matter to me, Brennan. The way you are with others every day, regardless of their status, is the true test of faith.” (chapter 2, page 38, Abba’s Child)
The way I am with others every day is the true test of my faith!! Isn’t this part of the greatest commandment – that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, our mind and our strength AND to love our neighbor as our self! (to which was asked, WHO is our neighbor!) I think our “neighbor” is every person we encounter through each part of our day… day in and day out.
I think of the times that I have been speechless (if you can believe it!) and have acted powerless or assumed a passive role – was often out of fear of rejection (or feeling rejected) and therefore not responding authentically. Oh God, forgive me for those times when I have let the imposter/false self rule in my life! There have been times that I have chosen NOT to act… Lord, forgive me for those times too.
I have come to see over and over again, that the more intimate our walk with the Lord gets, the smaller the imposter within us becomes. Our walk with the Lord means that we come humbly, honestly before the throne, knowing that in order to live fully, we must die to self. I think I will always struggle with self-confidence and self-worth. But I also know that it is not man/woman that gives this to me – but my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Jesus shows us over and over again throughout the gospels (in the Bible, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) how to love-on and act toward ALL people. ALL!
Getting rid of the imposter is also about loving ourselves the way God loves us, and wants us to love ourselves. The imposter is all about self-hatred! And self-hatred usually comes out in the form of a behaviour that is destructive! (hmmm, my struggle with food perhaps?)
Carl Jung in his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World Harvest Books, 1933) page 235 wrote:
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these things are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most imprudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then? As a rule, the christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering: we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.”
Hmmm. Wow…talk about not just "food for thought" but a “smorgasbord” of thought in that paragraph quote itself. I need to get into the word – into the gospels to not only see how Jesus walked among, ministered with and to, healed, preached to, touched, lived with, blessed and loved the people! Because there – in the gospels… I see ME!
At the end of the chapter – Manning says that on the 20th day of his stay in the retreat in the Rockies – he wrote a letter to “the imposter”… and at the end of this letter he writes
“On this last day in the Rockies my gift is to take you where, unknowingly, you have longed to be – into the presence of Jesus. Your days of running riot are history. From now on, you slow down, slow very down.
In His presence, I notice that you have already begun to shrink. Wanna know somethin’, little guy? You’re much more attractive that way. I am nicknaming you “Pee-Wee.” Naturally, you are not going to roll over suddenly and die. I know you will get disgruntled at times and start to act out, but the longer you spend time in the presence of Jesus, the more accustomed you grow to His face, the less adulation you will need because you will have discovered for yourself that HE is ENOUGH. And in the Presence, you will delight in the discovery of what it means to live by grace and not by performance. Your Friend, Brennan”
To which I could also could write and sign off ~ Your Friend, Joy
Oh Lord – please help me give up my struggle with self - my insecurities, my feelings of low self-worth and rejection - to give it all to you! Help me to live IN you today – to experience your Presence in a tangible way. To see you in those around me, and that others who I encounter will see YOU through my actions and that I will have the fragrance of yourself! Lord, forgive me for allowing the imposter to rule at times! Help me to make you Lord over all I do, I think, and I say. You O Lord, are Sovereign! Jesus, be the center! Amen and amen.