The Conditioned Self

Just imagine that we are born wearing a clear set of glasses, that at birth we could see clearly ourselves in this whole new world and among the people in it. As we gain experience of the world and the people close to us, as we begin to trust that our needs will be met, as we begin to feel the delight that our family takes in us, we also slowly begin to absorb the way they look at the world. Do they trust others? Do they embrace life? Are they afraid? Everything that is in their hearts and minds gets imprinted on our glasses. By the time we head off to school we are already seeing the world and the people in it in the way our family, especially our parents see it. So the clarity we were born with is superimposed with our family’s way of being in the world.

And so it goes with school: our teachers, much of what our teachers and classmates have in their hearts and minds gets imprinted on our glasses. So that clarity gets reduced even more. We watch television and see advertisements and we absorb all the values that the producers of the shows and their advertisers hold. And the clarity we had at birth has been subsumed into our family’s values and the school’s values and the culture’s values.

Most of this imprint from our family and school and culture happens before we have the intellect to put things into context and to see them for what they are. What have we lost by the age of nine when the intellect with its ability to judge and weigh alternatives finally begins to function? What was it that we saw so clearly at birth that we can no longer see clearly now?

What is lost is our sense of ourselves, of our purpose in life, all that God created us to be, and even our innate connection to God. Now this self-knowledge wouldn’t have been conscious at birth, but would have emerged over time as we grew up and discovered our talents and interests and naturally followed them. But we are so acculturated by our families and schools and culture long before we become adults, that as adults we have mostly lost any sense of who we really are and what the agenda, created in us, might be for our lives. We are living lives guided by the imprinted values, somewhat at war with our true nature, at least to the extent we allow it to emerge, but mostly we are not able to “see” our created selves, our true selves through the imprinting on the glasses of the acculturated self. Now we judge everything from the culture’s point of view, not from how it resonates in our own true selves. This is the dilemma that all of us face: our standards are those of the world around us, not our own.

It is this acculturated self that we bring to God. Only God can bring us back to the clarity with which we were born by cleaning the glasses of all the cultural conditioning. Then we can be truly alive and whole and living out the purpose for our lives.

 

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