As far as I can see, there’s a line and we stand on one side of it or the other. On one side, we feel constitutionally unable to acknowledge when we screw up and, on the other side, we can. The people who can’t acknowledge it often polish their story, bluff their way through, force others to accept their version, etc. Their lives get ever more convoluted and their story just grows and grows.
They may use all the right words and hide what they do from others – for a while. But sooner or later, the house of cards, which just gets bigger, collapses.
The people who can acknowledge their mistakes are constantly completing their perpetrations. Yes, they make errors and act stupidly at times, as I do for instance more than I like to think about, but they’re also able to acknowledge that they’ve acted stupidly, stop their forward motion, and go a better way.
As we begin our lightwork, it’s going to be important, I think, to be able to cop to and admit our fallacies and failures.
I can be a hypocrite. I’ve said things that have harmed others. I have tendencies that can inconvenience others and prove a trial for them. I can be small-minded and mean at times and have many problems that I haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of or on top of.
I think everyone has what we call a shadow side. But the ability to cop to and acknowledge when we indulge it is what provides a way out for us. Not a way out from responsibility. It can’t be used as an escape route. But a way out from going deeper and deeper into darkness. A way of turning ourselves around and walking out of the darkness that we’ve temporarily invited in.
Our vasanas, our habit patterns formed in reaction to traumatic incidents in the past, convince us that we’re doing right. It feels right. A lot of things feel right. Arrogance feels right. Self-righteousness too. So many of the vicious tendencies linger in us because they feel right. Which demonstrates that what feels right isn’t always our best guide.
There’s a voice of conscience that arises somewhat after the feel-right feeling. It’s another design feature of life, like the longing for liberation. The more we rely on it, the sooner it arises and the louder it becomes. It’s that voice of conscience that furnishes us with the best guide, I think, as it’s meant to do.
Those who perpetrate and won’t admit their shadow side are obliged to resort to what I called earlier “howdido” conversations. (1) They rehearse their perpetrations with others over coffee or a meal and polish their stories until they have their version of events just right. And then they’re obliged to keep their stories straight and remember what lines they’ll use, etc. Life lived this way is very burdensome.
But being willing to admit the error of one’s ways cuts through all this image-management activity. As a sage once said, one doesn’t need to remember very much if all one does is tell the truth.
We have to face that, as we begin our lightwork, all our uncompleted issues are going to come up and unless we can acknowledge our own dropped balls, it’s going to be a hard go for us. What did John Enright say? “Unawareness leads to momentary relief and continuing pain; awareness leads to momentary pain and continuing relief.” (2)
People start wars to hide their own mistakes and perpetrations. They condemn themselves to a lifetime of pain rather than the momentary pain of acknowledging their own folly.
Why not just admit that we behaved poorly and be done with it? Yes, it hurts. Yes, we may see our whole lives flash before us. But then the hurt lifts and we aren’t committed to a lifetime of pretense.
The spirit was not created with an ability to lie and cheat and not feel pain. The game is rigged in that respect. And why not? In the game of life, we’re supposedly aiming to realize ourselves as divine.
Perpetrations carry a cost that just keeps on rising until at last we come clean. I know from experience because I perpetrate, as many of us do. However I also know that trying to cover up my perpetrations, deny them, divert others by attacking them, etc., just doesn’t work.
(1) See “Letting Go of the Ways of the Ego,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-path-of-awareness/letting-go-of-the-ways-of-the-ego/ and “Image Management, Looking Good,” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-game-of-life/image-management-good/
(2) Cold Mountain Institute, January 20, 1979.