Monday, April 18, 2011

Voldemort and True Self vs. False Self

The first night of my spiritual retreat last week, Adele gave us a chart contrasting the True Self from the False Self.  I took one look and thought, “Shoot (or some other word)!  I’m completely living in my false self!

The more Adele described the true self, the more I wondered whether I even have a true self.  I worried that I’m actually more like an onion—peel all the layers away and there’s nothing underneath.  But then she said, “The true self is very little, very vulnerable and pink.” 

False Self Voldemort
Ah!  I thought.  Voldemort!!


Immediately, I pictured the scene in Book 7 at King’s Cross where both Harry and Voldemort may have died.  Harry looks and feels like Harry only with healed wounds and perfect vision.  Voldemort looks like a flayed, pitiful, unloved, ugly baby mewling under a bench where he’s been abandoned. 

To the wizarding world, Voldemort may look powerful, brilliant, and fearsome.  But on the inside, he's an extremely damaged, unloved and undeveloped barely human baby. 

Big Voldemort vs. Little Voldemort.  False self Voldemort vs. True self Voldemort.

Maybe the fact that both Harry and Dumbledore look like themselves at their right ages and right size means their true selves are remarkably similar to what the world sees, despite all their struggles with power, identity, worth and recognition.

Hmmm.  The theology of JK Rowling and Harry Potter.  No wonder I love the books so much!

It seems to me the good news in our Muggle world is that no matter how flayed and ugly our true self may be, how damaged and undeveloped, Jesus always invites us with the question, "Do you want to get well?" 

But maybe when Jesus heals, our true self doesn't get to become grown-up and powerful.  Maybe it stays little and vulnerable and pink.  A well loved, welcomed and cherished baby.   

Anyway, here’s Adele’s list.   Choose who you want to be, Harry or Voldemort.  (Or alternatively, my secret dream, Professor McGonagall.)

  • Redeemed self—draws life from within

  • Divided self—externalized identity

  • Doesn’t need success/Lives hiddenly

  • Needs to prove itself/craves recognition

  • Free—non-needy self

  • Compulsive—needy self

  • Doesn’t need a pecking order

  • Needs to acquire position/Acquired self/Self you can lose

  • Christ in me self.  Knows God in the silence beyond words

  • Who I think I am, and who I think I need to be.  Talkative self propped up through words

  • Gives and receives love

  • Wants a return on love

  • Blesses Extravagantly

  • Comparative and fault finding


Ling said...

oh so thats what the pitiful little lump was supposed to be! i always wondered that...

Tara said...

yikes. i've been thinking that i am growing more into my authentic self as i get older and spend more time with Jesus. but then i see that list and think i've barely started.

PaddleBoatDeb said...

I've heard that as we grow more like Jesus, we see more of our 'ugliness' and realize anew how much we need Him. Keeping our eyes on Him is the key!

Jeff Barneson said...

Since you said that it would spoil the book I didn't read your comments on the story. I did look at Adele's chart. Two thoughts Kathy:

1. Clearly guys, especially macho guys like me, don't have a true self that is pink.

2. I know that guys like Rohr and Merton talk about the true self almost as if it is an identity that exists somewhere in our past - Something that would blossom if we could just lose the baggage of our heroic, perfectionistic, performance, achievement-driven self. Get rid of the junk, all the techniques we've made to prop up our identity and cope with the world and our true vulnerable self will emerge. If that's what they're really saying then I'm starting to think it is not just wrong, but may be dangerous. I think the problem is actually worse, much worse than they are telling us...

I may just be stuck in the story of Holy Week but I can't help notice that the problem that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 6 seems a lot more sever. In fact the "true self" that Paul describes is so broken that the only remedy is execution - execution of the Son of God and execution of our self. Once it is dead and buried there is some hope - something he calls "a new creation" in 2 Corinthians 5.

Of course you may already embrace this theological riff and are thinking, "OK Jeff, but this is waaaay too Bibley for my readers." Maybe we could just adjust the language and call it "the new self." I think that might help.

I promise to come back and read the whole post including your comments about book 7 after I read it to my boys.

Charlie Clauss said...

I want to add that the false self, at least for me, is all about self, and hence is obsesded with self-protection. The true self is unselfconsious, and therefore free from bondage.

And the only way that the trueself comes to be is by being _set free_.