Speaking of Religion | Me and my shadow
A friend made a comment recently, and immediately my face turned red, my body tightened, and I became hot angry instantly! Later I asked myself, "Where did THAT come from?"
I spend much of my life trying to listen to others, to open to them no matter how differently they see things. Compassion, sharing others' pain, is central to my life.
So where did this anger and judgment come from? It's my shadow.
It's the opposite side of me that I don't recognize and certainly don't like. Sometimes I fool myself and think it's not there! Sometimes it feels better to project my shadow onto someone else and judge them.
Telling the truth is a central value of my life. Some time ago I read that 90% of people admit to lying regularly. I felt furious at those liars! "What's the sense of talking with people if they lie regularly?"
Time passed and I remembered the time in college when I wrote an article and got another reporter to put his name on it. I was trying to protect my source. A professor invited the two of us to talk with his class about this controversial article, and we both lied all through the class.
In the ensuing years I've noticed the lies my mind proposes when I feel embarrassed by something I've done. Often I catch myself because I know that part of my shadow creates lies, and now I'm watching. Other times my mouth opens and an excuse or a lie pops out. Then a battle starts inside me: to confess my lie or hide it.
I criticize political leaders for lying. I feel upset that truth is being thrown away in our culture. So my judging part comes out. My angry self stomps around, and I project my shadow on that other and condemn them.
The Bible says "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." I think, for me, this is a calling from my Maker. "Face the truth about yourself, about your shadow and it will open the door to freedom..." freedom from resentment, judgment, ignorance, division, violence, and a lot more.
Whenever I hear myself say, "I'd never do that," it stops me in my tracks! My shadow might do anything! Each of us, when we ignore our shadow, is DANGEROUS! I need to get to know my hidden characteristics and pay attention to what they need. When I project them on someone else, I need to take them back and work with them inside myself.
What's YOUR shadow like? List the aspects of your character that are familiar to you. Then list the opposites beside each one. Some will seem unfamiliar. If you will, start looking for those "missing pieces" of yourself. If you make friends with them they may become a strength, or at least you may catch them at times.
Does part of your shadow flare out when you are tired or anxious? Will some other person or group become your scapegoat? Or will you work at knowing the truth, the whole trust about yourself, and begin to embrace and work with it?
Marsh Hudson-Knapp is coordinating the Better Angels effort of the Greater Benington Interfaith Council and the Greater Bennington Peace and Justice Center. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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