If you ever want to know who you really are, then observe your thoughts, words, and actions during a time of distress or challenge. Most of us would be surprised to realize that often times, we are not who we think we are. But as unbearable as it can be, “spiritual selfies” as I like to call them, are imperative to our spiritual and personal growth, unlike the “traditional” selfies which promote narcissism and egoism.
Like most people, I am a bit weary of spiritual selfies, because of course I want to believe like everyone else, that “I am a good person” and I don’t need to look in the mirror to really see who I am. But lately, I feel like there is no way I can grow spiritually until I honestly examine my ideas and beliefs and begin to challenge some of them. So I have been forcing myself to take out the spiritual mirror and examine my soul in it.
In the brief time I have been looking at my soul in the mirror, I came to realize that most of my life I have been an ungrateful wretch (you might want to check for this problem as well). The other bombshell I discovered about myself is that as much as I like to tell myself I trust God and know He wants the best for me, historically, I have almost always fallen into some form of despair, self-pity, and/or anger towards God for being put through a rough time.
A recent example of my unholy attitude towards God: I began feeling intense pain in my chest, which would come and go in waves throughout the day every day. Heart problems got quickly ruled out, but I went in for tests to check whether I had acid reflux related ulcers in my esophagus and stomach. While I waited for those test results for a few days, I watched in utter disgust, my natural thought process: What if I have cancer? I have some form of cancer! God, why are You doing this to me when I have been eating so healthy for the last few months? There are so many people eating unhealthy foods and they get to be totally fine, but You had to make me sick after I am trying to better myself for You!
A few things shocked me about my inappropriate response to a minor life challenge such as acid reflux:
- I normally get angry with other people when they have life challenges and feel depressed or negative about their future and here I was jumping to the most negative conclusions about my own life.
- Those few days where I waited for my test results, there was some strange automatic response whereby I binged on the most unhealthy foods even though I did not enjoy them and watched one movie after another every night even though I did not care for most of them. It was as if I was I was saying to God “You want to hurt me? Well I can hurt myself even more than You!” All this happened in a way where my psyche was split in two, where one part of me was the real me observing my blasphemous and self destructive thoughts/behavior and the other was my ego running the show. For some reason, I couldn’t get a grip over myself and had to just let myself come back to my senses when the time was right (which thank God I did eventually).
In the end it turned out that I had nothing wrong in my body and I simply took some antacids to help relieve my condition. When the ordeal ended, I felt tremendously ashamed of how I had not just reacted, but over reacted to something so minor. And even if I did have a serious medical condition, I should have been steadfast and patient. It was then that I realized how important it was for me to keep taking more spiritual selfies.
My humble advice to my human brothers and sisters would be to generously take spiritual selfies and examine all those warts, bumps and parasites that infest all our souls. Treat all those ailments of the soul before they spread and destroy any chances of an authentic relationship between you and God and you and God’s creation.
You will be able to see a lot about yourself in the spiritual selfie. Observe the level of ease with which you make excuses for your poor behavior and the level of ease with which you make excuses for other people’s poor behavior. Notice how much effort and resources you are willing to invest for improving your physical appearance and social status versus for improving your character and relationships with others. Notice how many times you have wished someone died in a dirty ditch for bruising your ego or hurting you compared to how many times you prayed to God to forgive them and make them better. Take note of your first thoughts when someone you know gets a big promotion at work or gets positively featured in a news article, or gets any sort of small or big happy moment in their life. Do you wallow in bitter thoughts or do you genuinely feel joy for that person?
Then once you pick out the biggest warts and ugly marks on your soul, firstly, face the truth of the type of person you really are, and not the one you like to believe you are. Next, realize that only God can change you and that He has blessed you with the ability to turn to Him for help. Understand and acknowledge that ultimately, only God is 100% of the time looking out for your (and everyone’s) good. Turn to God inwardly and open your mouth and speak to Him like you are speaking to your best friend and confidant. Tell Him what type of person you really need Him to make you into. And just for fun, notice how you talk to Him and whether your tone and voice reminds you of your earthly relationships. My conversation with God sounded like I was whining to my mother.