The fear mongers and the anger entrepreneurs are ubiquitous. Their messages — on air, screen or in print, are intended to arouse the ego and trigger a reaction. Fill us with resentment, indignation or fear.
Concepts and issues that had once invited conversation are now so ego-laden that people raise them at their peril. Critical race theory, woke, abortion, guns — and on and on and on. Raise any of these or other issues and the ego kicks in — and people are either ready to square off or shut down. From both sides. The ego is a constituent part of who we are. We need the ego. It organizes our lives — and keeps us on track. But the ego also is resistant to change, disdains risk and seeks to avoid pain.
Beneath the ego is the soul. It is from the soul that love is born, creativity emerges, and imagination is kindled. And where listening can happen.
We are not very good these days at listening. At least not with deep listening, which has connection with the soul. Much of the time our listening doesn’t get much beyond the ego, which is busy fashioning a response to what is being said on an issue that is fraught with controversy. There is a desire to be right, or to win — or supply enough data or information that can shut down the other side.
Which doesn’t get us anywhere.
To get to the soul involves surrender. Surrendering our ego needs, which means that it is necessary to recognize our ego’s needs, particularly when the ego goes into overdrive. Virtually every religious tradition invites people to a discipline of surrender. Surrender to an idea, a presence — to the soul. Jesus offers several pathways of surrender — “If anyone wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35); and “For those who want to save their live will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
The ego sees surrender as defeat. The soul regards it as growth. Surrendering turns out to be a gift – not just for us, but for others as well.
The Christian world is about to enter the season of Lent, which commemorates Jesus forty-day sojourn in the wilderness. We often think of his journey as an exercise in saying no to the many temptations that the ego dangled before him. And the scriptures report that Jesus in fact did that. But I am of the belief that before he said no, he said yes. Yes to the soul. Yes to love. Yes to hope and creativity. A yes that enabled him to surrender. His sojourn in the wilderness enabled him to purge the accelerations of the ego, so he could live in the soul. Jesus surrendered – and when he emerged from that six week ordeal, he was able to claim his own giftedness – and work tirelessly to help others – particularly the outcast and marginalized, to discover their own. To help all of us claim the giftedness of our God-given souls.
Christian or not, believer or not — we are invited to take the journey from the ego to the soul. Where we can hear one another, and more authentically be with one another.