The False Self(ie) – Reclaiming Our Divine Image


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Our image and identity have power to shape and direct who we are or who we think we are. Notice that image and identity are both “i” words. It is increasingly difficult in the “The Age of I” to seek and form an authentic identity, especially as disciples of Jesus. We live in an age and in a culture in which we are constantly, both consciously and subconsciously receiving messages of what the ideal image of ourselves should be. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with images. The internet has us more connected than ever before in our history as human beings, but with the rise of the use of images as opposed to real conversations in person, we are becoming more disconnected from reality. The advertising industry trying to sell us stuff depends heavily on images of physically near-perfect human beings to convince us we really desire and aspire to be just like them, in order to sell us their products. And knowingly or unknowingly, we participate in this example as we try to “sell” ourselves through an image that we select, craft, and present to the world, I’m talking about the “Selfie.”

Everything that is false about us arises from our belief that our deepest happiness and satisfaction will come through our own efforts, and not God’s. Although many of us may want to trust God and surrender to his will, I believe many of us struggle deep down with doubt that God is really in a good and is at work for our benefit. At the core of the false self is a desire to create and preserve an image of our self and a way of relating to the world. Some will argue, rightly, that this pursue of attention is the leading cause of body issues that are plaguing this generation from body dysmorphic disorders, to eating disorders, from low self-esteem, to poor self-image. They are reaching epidemic levels especially among women and in particular young women.

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)

There’s no truer selfie than the self laid bare, unadorned, and without shame.

We know from this story that after being provided for, given freedom, authority, and space, they decided they wanted more than what was available and took what didn’t belong to them. I call this the rebellion because it accurately describes what we do when we reject God’s provision for us, we rebel. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they took what didn’t belong to them and as a result, they saw their nakedness for the first time. They felt exposed and vulnerable. Their response was to sew together fig leaves to cover their shame. In response, God provides clothing for them to protect them. Human beings have been hiding ourselves and our shame under layers and layers of protection ever since. The false self is made up of all of these layers.

Our false self like our ancestors is rooted in our lack of trust in God and falsely believes that our security and and significance are achieved by what we have, what we can do, and what others think of us. The false self seeks happiness in autonomy from God and in attachments.

In the false self, identity is our idealized self (who we want others to think we are), our constructed self(ie). This is achieved by means of pretense and practice and is maintained by effort and control. It embraces an illusion as a means of attempting to become our own god. Peter came face to face with his false self, and his response was the same as Adam and Eve’s — shame, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Jesus rejects shame as the means of transformation. Instead, Jesus invited Peter into a different way of thinking, and he invites us to do the same. Jesus tells us to repent, which means to change the direction in which we are looking for happiness, security, worth.

When Paul says to the Corinthians to “leave the world,” I think he means leaving behind all of the self-centered projects, programs, demands—rationalized, justified and even glorified—of security, pleasure, esteem, and power, which hinder us from growing into fully human people.

This starts with surrender to Jesus. It’s the first step among many and it’s something we do everyday. We seek Jesus, not try to break our attachments. And as we seek Jesus, grace and mercy will be given to us, as we see ourselves reflected in his Divine Mirror. God wants to share with us even in this life the maximum amount of divine life that we can possibly contain. The self we find hidden in Christ is our true self because Christ is the source of our being and the ground of our true identity.


Take a selfie this week. Take a few minutes to take a good look at it. How much is you? How much is what you wished you were? Are there things about yourself which you don’t like. Take a few moments and share your thoughts and feelings with God. Take your time. Maybe start with the good ones, the things you like about yourself. How is God as you share these with him? Close, far, smiling, chuckling, serious, or having fun? How do you feel as you try to sense God’s presence: grateful, glad, lucky? Move to the things about yourself which you aren’t so happy about. Share these with God, as well. Again, how is God as you share them? How do you feel as you share them and about God’s response? Take a few moments to sit with how this process has gone. Do you feel it brought you closer to God? If so, you might take a few moments to share that with God. Do you feel any consternation? Feel free to share that with God as well.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing:

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