Father S.O.S

Personal denial that develops authenticity

Is it compatible to deny oneself, as the gospel demands, and to develop a healthy personality? It is precisely the surrender to God that can contribute to the growth of a more authentic personality.

Carlos Chiclana-February 3, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

Is it compatible to deny oneself, as the gospel asks, and to develop a healthy personality? If God is the truth, denying oneself and following him should enhance self-esteem, a better self-concept, the flourishing of self-identity and authentic personality.

However, sometimes this is not the case and we find people who, with the premise of refusing to follow Christ, have ended up annulled, subdued, lifeless, without a project of their own or with a complex. Could it be that God has deceived them?

Healthy personal denial

Imagine yourself having a coffee with several Teresian Saints: of Calcutta, Jornet and Ibars, Benedicta of the Cross, of Jesus, of Lisieux. You observe them, you listen to their stories, you let yourself be carried away by their way of speaking, saying and being. They smile as they tell you about your life.

You see that they have all denied themselves, you perceive that each personality is very different and that, precisely thanks to the denial of themselves, they have enhanced the development of their authentic being, they have sculpted their character and, far from becoming uniform, they have become more diverse.

The counsel of the saints

St. Gregory the Great has an answer to this that integrates very well with a healthy psychology: "It would not be enough to live detached from things, if we did not also renounce ourselves. But where will we go outside of ourselves? Who is he who renounces, if he leaves himself? Know that our situation is one in that we are fallen by sin, and another in that we are formed by God. We have been created in one way, and we are in another because of ourselves. Let us renounce what we have become by sinning, and let us maintain ourselves as we have been constituted by grace. Thus he who has been proud, if, having been converted to Christ, he becomes humble, has already renounced himself; if a lustful person changes to a continent life, he has also renounced himself in what he once was; if a covetous person ceases to covet and, instead of seizing what belongs to others, begins to be generous with what is his own, he has certainly denied himself.".

In music

It seems that, far from running away from oneself, the interesting thing is to connect and search for oneself as God-formed while dancing to the song. Blessed glory by Mario Diaz: "I once wanted to be someone / and ended up being myself / I tried to fly so high / that it made all sense.". There is a question that I sometimes ask those who are caught up in giving to others in a disorderly way, or are dedicated to solving the problems of others without attending to their own.

They argue that this is God's will for them and that doing so enriches them, but the reality is that they are sitting in the office asking for help, because their energy levels are very low and the compass of their life does not point north. I ask you: who is the person that God has entrusted you to care for with the greatest dedication and quality? Think about it now. 

Personal care

On one occasion, a married woman with several children heard the question, looked at me defiantly with a half smile and commented: "I know I have to say it's me, but it's not going to get it. I thought first of my husband, but I said to myself: no, my husband is not; then I thought of my children, but as I had said only one person, I couldn't choose any of them. So I concluded that it had to be me, but it was by exclusion.".

The search for what is good for oneself with self-care, setting limits to the requests of others, saying no, asking for help, letting oneself be helped and served, having desires and dreams, or enhancing one's tastes and hobbies, is what is most proper to a Christian who has denied himself in that which distances him from God and follows a Christ who has the face of the risen Christ.

To give oneself it is necessary to possess oneself, to get out of oneself, you need to be inside. That person will balance between giving and taking care of himself, between loving and letting himself be loved, and will not stop looking for what makes that person, that God has entrusted to him, reach his best version.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains it in De Malo: "As in the love of God God himself is the last end to which all things that are rightly loved are ordered, so in the love of one's own excellence is found another last end to which all things are also ordered; for he who seeks to abound in riches, or in knowledge, or in honors, or any other goods, by all this seeks his own excellence."

Self-denial integrates the search for personal excellence with the rejection of what detracts from that excellence, thinking of oneself and others, caring and letting oneself be cared for, loving and letting oneself be loved, in reciprocity: loving one's neighbor as oneself.

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