[Adapted from Chapter 7 of my book The Secret Power of Words]
Once you are committed to Truth, you may be saddened by the loss of those you considered to be your friends, but you will no longer need their ego support. Once you stand up for what is right, you will find that you can reverse the wrong direction your life was taking as the result of going along with the crowd. But you must speak up. Your life, and theirs, may depend on it.
You grow up and have surrounded by a sea of words. You and all the other persons in your particular part of the system use words to express shared values, and you tend to accept uncritically the connotations and nuances of the words as they are expressed within the tight circle of your own environment. Should you suddenly start to see the world by a new light, however, you will start to use the old words in a new way, and to question the assumptions they have always conveyed to you and the others in your group.
The minute you start to use words to break out of the old mold, you will find that even those persons who are closest to you will not be the least bit interested in breaking their old accustomed habit patterns of thought. In effect, you will be sounding the call to battle between fiendship on one side, and friendship on the other; and it would be best not to expect any of the latter.
If you fail to speak up, you remain trapped in a supportive relationship with what is wrong in your environment, and that relationship, in turn, supports what is wrong in you. As long as you derive any comfort from the “perks” available to those who don’t rock the boat, you remain unable to develop mentally, emotionally, and spiritually toward the state of perfection for which you were originally created.
Speaking up changes friends into enemies, and thus it introduces into your life a new element of stress, pain, and persecution, which, correctly handled, will call up in you the proper measure of virtue you will need to deal with the pressures. The inner light that illuminates reality and spurs you to speak up will answer your need to cope with an endless infilling of patience and courage.
The Scripture expresses it perfectly: “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake . . . for great is your reward in heaven.” Something new and blessed that could not otherwise exist comes to life in you. By speaking up in a timely way, you set yourself at variance with the forces you once went along with. You not only threaten egos as you throw out a challenge to them, but you also put a distance between them and yourself. You will be like a spy whose presence in the camp has been suddenly discovered. People’s attitudes toward you will change, and hostility will become your new environment. Your enemies won’t know it, of course, but they will be doing you a favor by providing the stress you need in order to grow in the secret and special way of the blessed.
Isn’t it strange and wonderful? This new stress of overt, unabashed hostility is the very stress you were trying so hard to avoid by catering to your associates and yielding to their influence on your daily affairs!
Being friendly is the weakling’s subtle way of trying to “control” his fierce adversary. But how can anyone continue to live in agreement with wrong, and still hope to develop a strong character? Can a bullfighter make friends with the bull and still hope to become a great matador? No! Until he sees the bull as his adversary, he will be unable to call up the courage and skills he will need to win. Danger is to courage what temptation is to virtue.
So it is with you. Your honesty, becoming visible, sets you apart from disease-producing, soul-debilitating friendships. Being rejected and persecuted will awaken your need to seek comfort only from the God-source within.
Your words will threaten word-sensitive egos and disturb an intellectual concept of world order in which they take comfort, and upon which they depend for survival. They will immediately try to confuse you, but even if your knees are knocking together, you must stand firm. You will feel weak and afraid, primarily because your former nature drew a great deal of confidence from being in agreement with those you now see to be your enemies. Prepare yourself, for the moment you speak up, you will break all the old bonds. When you withdraw ego-support from your “friends,” they will withdraw their ego-support from you. When they do, you may feel alone and vulnerable, even guilty. Why is it so hard to speak up? It is because you are tearing at the matrix, the birthplace, of your own wrong nature. You feel as though you are being cruel and unkind.
As long as you cling to any kind of support, you are unable to make the vital transition to Truth that will free you. But once you make a commitment to Truth, you will become bolder and bolder; having abandoned your old ego props, you will discover the greater power of Reality. Each new truth, openly championed, snips another subtle point of attachment and releases you from the unreasonable grip of friendships and passions.
As you become more objective, you will find yourself standing patiently outside the crowd, within an intuitive, protective circle whose borders you must never cross again. Within this circle, you will grow and flower into the real person you were meant to be, slowly but surely developing confidence to overcome all the problems that have sprung up through your past failures to deal with the adversary.
There are those who were born to be rotten, and they love every minute of their abandonment to rottenness. But there are others who want to be decent but cannot find their way because they are acting in a kind of compulsive sympathy with the only world they know, the rotten world around them. And because the things they do as the result of their bondage often appear to be acts of love and friendship, they fail to discover the way to their real identity, and the good life they yearn for eludes them.
Like it or not, if you take your motivation from the affections of the world, the world will get inside you. The people, places, and things we cling to and need to motivate us can indeed make us come alive, but as animals rather than as people. The conflict you feel within is trying to tell you about another form of motivation, one that is not based on clinging to people, places, and ideas, and is thus not of the devil. We cling to the outside world only to serve our own selfish ego needs, but doing so is what changes us and enslaves us to the source, making it our god. We cannot truly oppose what we need.
Right is a relationship with God, the inner ground of our being. We cannot enjoy that relationship until we are willing to let go of our “friends” and take our stand on that ground, let the friends fall as they may.
In our relationships with others, it is entirely possible to seek to do the right thing with a wrong motive; but if your motive is wrong, the effect will also be wrong. It is absolutely impossible to do the right thing with the wrong motivation: greed, for example, or an attempt to compensate for guilt feelings. When the shoe is on the other foot and you are on the receiving end, you can actually feel the invisible emanations of a wrongly motivated manipulator, even though he seems to be doing good.
Until you return to the right source for everything you do and say, all your apparent “good deeds” will backfire. The ideals of goodness conjured up by your carnal selfish mind cause you to do things that bring on family problems and lead, eventually, to death.
Being kind, too kind, to your children, for instance, is the symptom of some unrecognized guilt that you hope to resolve by changing your image in your children’s eyes and manipulating their love in your favor. To relieve your guilt in this way requires you to practice little tricks of deception regarding your own worth, often with great displays of affection, and always by doing more for them than wisdom would dictate.
The primary negative effect of selfish love is long-term, in that you set up your loved ones to be easily deceived and manipulated by others long after you have left the scene. The next negative effect is the one you have brought on yourself. No matter how hard you try, you cannot shake the guilt you feel for being a manipulator. Knowing deep within yourself, perhaps not even consciously, that you are a fraud, not to be trusted, you have to work harder and harder to get people to trust you enough for you to feel at ease with them. You try to plant such a good image of yourself in the people around you that you can somehow buy it back from them for the reassurance your ego needs in order to “look the world in the eye.” Your compulsive efforts to obtain the good opinion of others backfire, of course, in the sense that, along with their good opinion, you get the impact of the soles of their shoes as they wipe their feet on you. (Or, to put it another way, plums that are ripe for the picking are bound to get picked.) You begin to see that you are being used and clung to by a pack of freeloaders taking advantage of your “goodness,” so now you may not be able to stop “giving of yourself,” but you do so resentfully. And by now you surely must know that resentment leads inevitably to guilt. So there you go again, trying to get rid of the guilt by playing the martyr, spoiling everyone rotten and suffering the results of their rottenness until you have become such a battleground of love and hate that your only “escape” is a nervous breakdown.
When the battle between good and evil that has been raging within you finally drives you to the bottom of the pit, all the “experts,” self-anointed or credentialed, gather around to pick over the wreckage of your limp and battle-scarred self. By now, of course, you have completely lost control, both of the “real” self (over which your hold has always been tenuous at best) and the “mask” self that you have been presenting to the world for its approval.
Indeed, you feel so completely naked and vulnerable that you may give your “saviors” credit for seeing and understanding more than they are capable of seeing and understanding. They may actually be more transparent to you at this point than you are to them. For now, you see those persons whose approval you so cravenly sought, those whose love could help you, start to make their various, often confusing, pronouncements on your condition and toy with your helplessness, all the while giving you more and more reason to judge them. And as long as you are compulsively related to them, rather than to the Savior within, you are at their mercy.
(To Be Continued in Part II.)