Daring To Be Awake and Authentic
How does one engage in the process of individuation and avoid becoming caught in the trap of narcissism? What does taking care of oneself become selfish? When one asks the question “What is right?” how can one decide on an answer when what is right is different for different people? These are tough questions, questions I am wrestling with at the moment.
Cowardice asks the question: “Is it safe?”
Expediency asks the question: “Is it politic?”
Vanity asks the question: “Is it popular?”
But conscience asks the question: “Is it right?”
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one what is right.” ( Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” – 31 March 1968)
Martin Luther King, Jr. also asks tough questions that strike at the heart of where I find myself. I can see my cowardice, my trying to please others at the expense of what I believe is right, doubting what I believe is right in the process. I have been running almost all of my life – running away from my abusive childhood, running away from my dreams, running away from . . . all of that running was/is about fear. But the truth is I survived my abusive childhood, and I am now a mature adult. I shouldn’t be running any longer from the dark shadows of the past.
Now, I find myself being “politic,” a strategy I learned in childhood in which I kept quiet about what I knew and believed and focused on the needs and wants, the beliefs of those who where responsible for my growing through childhood. I became the agreeable peacekeeper, the pacifier, the one who tried to reduce storm waves to smooth waters. I didn’t disagree, but would swallow my truth to avoid censure, to avoid pain, to avoid loneliness. As an adult, the pattern continued. I would make only small noises and only if those noises would not threaten too much my growing family. I continued to swallow my swelling anger and let it explode within me while keeping a safe smile on my face. We all make decisions everyday that compromise our sense of truth because of both personal fear and fear or retribution upon those whom we love. We all become “politic” even within our primary relationships in order to ensure that the relationships survive rather than testing the true depths of our relationships.
We turn our cheek when our truths are assaulted and present the other cheek. We also turn our eyes away from our truths so that we can pretend we don’t know. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, do no evil.” These are words we live for the most part in order to insulate ourselves from what appears to be a very nasty modern world. I am as guilty of this as anyone, perhaps more so. And when I consider other words spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr, I feel shamed: “”He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
It’s time for me to wake up and be courageous. It’s time for me to risk learning the truth and living those truths.
“There are a thousand things which prevent a man from awakening, which keep him in the power of his dreams. In order to act consciously with the intention of awakening, it is necessary to know the nature of the forces which keep a man in a state of sleep. (G.I. Gurdjieff)
The process of waking up is my current journey. Will I have the courage to truly wake up, or will I go only so far as to find a more comfortable way to spend the last of my years and days on this planet?