Self Denial

And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

— St. Luke 9:23-24

We must be jealous for God against ourselves, and look well to the cunning and deceitful Self, until it is thoroughly and utterly denied, and God is to it also All-in-all—till we have left it quite empty of our will, and God has come into it. Until then, its very denials, its very turnings from things dear to it for the sake of Christ, will tend to foster its self-regard, and generate in it a yet deeper self-worship. The Self will please itself with the thought of its unselfishness, its devotion to God, its forsakings for his sake. It may not call itself, but it will soon feel itself a saint, looking down upon the foolish world and its ways. In a thousand ways will Self delude itself. Christ sought not his own, not anything but the will of his Father: we have to grow diamond-clear, true as the white light of the morning. Hopeless task! –were it not that he offers to come himself, and dwell in us.

We must note that the thing has to be done daily: we must keep on denying. It is a deeper and harder thing than any sole effort of most herculean will may finally effect. For the will is not pure, is not free, until the Self is absolutely denied. It takes long for the water of life that flows from the well within us, to permeate every outlying portion of our spiritual frame, subduing everything, until at last we are delivered into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. Every day till then we have to take up our cross; every hour to see that we are carrying it.


by Diane Adams

The need for approval is one of the driving forces of human existence. People will do, say, or be anything to gain the approval of others, often without realizing it. It is an unpleasant reality that human beings must have approval from outside of the self in order to function. This is an innate need. Even the most heinous offenders among us, people who kill and rape and abuse others, will attempt to justify their behavior, seeking approval by creating a ‘reason’ for it that they hope others will accept.

The worst of this though is not the overwhelming need we have, the willingness to accept what we're told to believe in order to be thought of as 'smart' or 'cool' or a ‘good person’'. The worst aspect of surrendering to this need is that in order to do it, we must deceive ourselves--attribute motives to ourselves that don't exist, refuse to be honest about what we're doing and why. Once we've fully deceived ourselves, nothing of worth in the soul can ever happen again unless or until we become conscious of our true motives.

In a sense, self-deception is the original sin. Like Adam in the garden, we shift the blame with an almost supernatural power to believe anything other than that we are not good. She made me do it. He drove me to it. You wouldn’t let me. On and on it goes. Who can set us free from the pernicious craving for acceptance?

The good news is that there is a simple paradigm shift here that can accomplish what we alone can never do. We must seek approval from outside ourselves, but that does not mean we must seek it from society, from our friends or our enemies, who will judge us, force us to take up a pretence. We can seek approval from God himself, from pure, eternal love. Again and again we can go back to him, to fully realize that he has already approved us, that there is nothing we can do that will cause him to stop loving us, regret making us. He delights in every staggering effort we make to become what we were meant to be, not what others mean us to be, or even what our own perceptions desire, but what the perfect law of love demands.

“What we call sins are actually symptoms of the illusion that we are separated from God,” Richard Rohr writes. In a sense, self-deception is the root of all sin. At the crossroads between our true selves and the false ones we create to justify who we think we are, here is where we can choose to please God or to try and please others. We will do one or the other.