We’ve all had that one friend that loves to gossip or maybe been in a relationship with a controlling partner. Or maybe! We find ourselves comparing our behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel on social media.
The spiritual definition of ego is having an identity outside of who we are in Christ. It is to consider oneself separate from God. Engaging with our ego we identify more with the body and soul (as previously described in the Anatomy of Being Human) rather than our spirit communing and identifying with God. The more we identify with ego and live with its symptoms the more we find ourselves ensnared. Like a moth in a web that becomes more deeply entangled as it struggles. Ego is deceptive and rooted in comparison. When living an egocentric life we measure ourselves not by Christ’s standards but by the world’s.
We have all experienced its symptoms:
insecurity, judgmental towards others, feeling inadequate and threatened, competitive, comparison, control, protective (when compared to vulnerability), fear, criticism, gossip, hate, victim mentality, worry, always must be right, having the last word, vanity
I believe we can find nuggets of insight by studying cultures beyond our own. For example in this study we find that the Sanskrit word for ego is “ahamkara” and is considered, in the indo-aryan culture, a condition of birth. Even this ancient culture had a concept of humanity’s sin nature. It is the “I maker”. Ego in these Sanskrit terms is described like a rope that binds.
In Romans 12:1-2 we are encouraged to become a living sacrifice daily. A living sacrifice requires the purifying fire of God consume all that does not serve Him. When a rope on the ground is burned we see the shape of the rope but it has lost its power to bind.
Paul was candid in describing his own battle with ego. Imagine, if the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament had struggles then of coarse you and I won’t be exempt! He shares how baffled he is by his own lack of self control in Romans 7:15-20:
“For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them.] I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness — my sinful capacity]. Now if I habitually do what I want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] that lives in me. For I know nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness — my sinful capacity]. The willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I not not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want to do, I am no longer the one doing it [that is, it is not me that acts], but the sin [nature] which lives in me.”
The fact that you are reading this blog shows you have a willingness, as Paul did, but that you also struggle with your human nature and ego.
Adam and Eve chose to identify separately from their creator; a disconnect with their life source. They thought they knew better than God. We see humanity’s first manifestation of the ego in Genesis chapter 3 verses 8-11.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to Adam, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said. “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
The expression of our ego is the fig leaf; a sinful answer attempting to hide our brokenness.
Adam and Eve chose a disharmonious path when eating of the forbidden fruit resulting in separation. The expression of ego we see here is shame. They attempt to hide their choice with leaves. Shame is that makeshift, manmade covering. Perhaps for some of us it is comparison, gossip, insecurity, worry or judgmental attitudes among many other sorts of leaves from the tree of ego.
Take a moment to think of times you have experienced shame and what behaviors were born from that emotion? Addiction, for example, is partially rooted in long standing shame (along with guilt). Shame causes a disconnection from our creator resulting in disengagement of God’s extravagant love, grace and mercy. In Genesis it wasn’t God who withdrew, it was man and woman who instigated the separation of identity.
That one moment of ego, choosing malalignment with God over obedience, caused generations of pain and disease. This human trait has been reproduced through our DNA for millennia. Exodus 34:6-7 describes how iniquity is passed on to our children and our children’s children.
In the field of science known as Epigenetics we have learned that trauma from previous generations has repercussions beyond the one who had first hand experience. When trauma moves into an unresolved state of PTSD in a person’s life it alters and restructures the rungs on the ladders of our DNA double helix. This degradation causes poor immunity among other things.
Emotional trauma can cause mountains of stress hormones and in turn influence the epigenetic quality of our DNA and genes. When a parent has experienced a time they felt unsafe or were in a hostile environment they can pass on those genes that have been altered by war, rape, abuse or other stressors.
The epigenetic structure of our DNA can be much like a rock or a crystal. They have the same molecular make up. Rocks, however, are disorganized and jumbled with a mess of impurities. A crystal’s molecules are aligned and don’t have the mayhem in the middle, so to speak. This is why we can see light pass through quartz.
It is no wonder we struggle day after day and sometimes hour by hour with slavery to our ego. We create patterns, sometimes buried deep in our DNA, and repeatedly choose what we don’t want to do but can’t seem to help ourselves.
The good news is that rather than being slaves to our struggles we were created to be slaves of righteousness by conforming to God’s will and purpose (Romans 6:18).
How do we break the ropes of this dark nature and come into proper alignment with our creator? The simple answer is Jesus, but sometimes we need practical steps to facilitate his presence. Fortunately, unlike a rock, we can restructure our lives. Aligning ourselves according to Christ will lead to healing and freedom. Ego casts shadows but when the mess of impurities is cleansed the light of God can pass through us like a crystal! No shadows! After all, James 1:17 tells us there is no shadow of turning with the Father of Lights.
Let’s talk about how to start that lifelong journey.