The Prison of the Self

imagesWhat is the common characteristic of life’s failures?  What do neurotics, psychotics, criminals, perverts, problem children, and other misfits have in common?

All of life’s failures are failures simply because they have not been able to get beyond themselves.  They are self-centered and lack social interest.

Most of the evils of mankind would not be possible if the ego did not persuade us that we were somehow different, somehow better, somehow more precious than others.  It is the ego that draws the line between “us” and “them” and deludes us into thinking we can go it alone.  It is our ego that leads us to believe that we can live untouched by the problems that plague the rest of humanity or that our problems are of a different magnitude, severity, or degree.

At its worst, the ego can persuade us that our smallest desires are more important than someone else’s life, the gratification of our immediate needs more important than another’s well-being, or that our view of the way the world should be is more important than the integrity of nations and the lives of thousands.

Conversely, John Ruskin observed, the first test of a truly great man is humility. “I do not mean by humility doubt of his own powers,” Ruskin said. “But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them.  And they see something Divine in every other man.”

Ego is the enemy.  It keeps us apart. Any activity based on ego and human ambition is a delusion and an obstacle to grace.  Ego separates us from those we love and those who love us. It imprisons us in ourselves.

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2 Responses to The Prison of the Self

  1. Neal says:

    Bill, you are spot on here. We wonder why no one seems to care anymore, we wonder why courtesy has been thrown out the window, we wonder why so many senseless acts take place daily, heck, we even wonder why the person at the checkout counter is so rude, is it really a mystery? We’ve become a self-absorbed society. Our “connected” world has become faceless and self-promoting. It is, as you say, separating us not really connecting us. The cure is not that hard. Next time you’re in a coffee shop, turn off your phone, turn around and talk with somebody, not text, TALK.
    Thanks Bill for continually inspiring us all to grow and be better human beings.

  2. Hugh H.Jones,jr. says:

    I had to read this twice to absorb the very true meaning –then a light lite and I finally saw the meaning and truth by which you spoke. And for me this can be spotted and begun with very “small” things and then as our ego grows confident it will grow more and more out of control to hurt not just ourselves but others.Thank you for this piece of wisdom

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