Suppose we are afraid of some aggressor and choose to hide behind some protector. If later, our protector suppresses us, we won’t be able to challenge them because we have made ourselves dependent on them.
A similar dynamic applies in our inner world. We all face troubles and threats from the world outside of us. To protect ourselves, we often craft an image of ourselves as being tough.
For example, if we fear betrayal by people around us, we might craft an image of being cynical, hard-hearted and uncaring of the world. While this image may protect us from heartbreak, it will also suppress our heart from growing and flourishing. If we are hiding behind that macho image, we will not be able to lower our guard and express our vulnerability even to people who truly care for us and whom we want to come closer to.
When enemies face each other, both brag about their strengths and conceal their weaknesses and wounds. When loved ones meet each other, however, they need to appropriately reveal their weaknesses and wounds so that treating and healing can take place.
The same principle applies to our moral flaws too. If we live in a morally demanding social circle, we might put on an appearance of being upstanding to be respected, or at least to not be rejected. But while concealing our moral weaknesses is sometimes necessary, we need to simultaneously work on rectifying those flaws. Otherwise, the cautions that we will end up not just deceiving the world but also deceiving ourselves, believing that we are morally healthy when we aren’t.
We need to avoid becoming chronically dependent on our image by not hiding behind ourselves, but by appropriately challenging ourselves and thereby get the support necessary to change ourselves.
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