There are many who are prepared to get up in arms about injustices and fight in the public arena for what they say they believe. Yet when it comes to their interactions in the private arena, they may have a distinct lack of self-awareness. This is, of course, classic ego response in action.
Egalitarians may want to be perceived as advocates for the common man. They may truly want to believe that everyone has equal value, but in reality, they may secretly believe themselves to be more equal than anyone else. This type of paradoxical egoic response can be found in every arena. From grassroots activists to CEO’s, from politicians to paupers.
This attitude can be demonstrated by an old joke about a group of Buddhist monks. These monks spend hours meditating on nothingness. They strive to become one and merge into the supreme being, but what they’re really striving for is to be more supreme than anyone else.
The ego is always at play and trying to run the show
There is no field or endeavour that the ego cannot be found. Often the most pious or supposedly progressive types have the biggest egos. There are numerous stories about spiritual teachers or enlightened masters who abuse their power and exploit their devotees. There are charity workers who pity or look down on those they wish to save. There are political activists who will do anything in their power, to gain power.
The mask of the ego is not always easy to see, least of all by the one wearing it. As one of my favourite spiritual teachers, Mooji says: “The eye cannot see itself. The knife cannot cut itself.”
This is so true. When we’re blinded by ego, we’re unable to see through our blind spots. Those may have to be pointed out to us by someone with a broader and longer, view. And we may still deny that broader view precisely because of our unwillingness to see ourselves as we really are.
For example, spouting great oratory in service to creating a more equal world, or being full of good intentions towards others who are less fortunate, are worthy pursuits. Yet if that oratory doesn’t translate to how we treat the least among us, what use is it? If our good intentions only last when our own going is good, then what value do those intentions really have? If we patronise others while acting as their patrons, then who is really being diminished in that case?
Titles and Hierarchies
Titles and hierarchies are another great way for us to talk our talk without walking our walk. Seeking titles and expecting others to call us by those titles, is like a glass of mead to the ego. It especially loves having a title that is considered superior to someone else.
A Catholic bishop doesn’t tell his congregation to just call me Dave, as a general rule. Doctor’s usually enjoy their title and all that it implies about who they are and how they’re perceived in wider society. Members of the British royal family want to be known specifically by their title. They also know exactly where they stand in the royal pecking order. A pious man – if he isn’t truly pious, wants to be perceived as being the most pious man there is.
If that bishop can spout numerous biblical verses from memory but is unable to feel compassion for a subordinate who struggles with celibacy, what does he really know? A doctor who pops pills and downs a bottle of whisky after work to relieve stress, cannot then chastise a patient for unhealthy living. Royalty? What does that even mean anyway? It certainly doesn’t mean that the British royal family is superior to anyone else. And true piousness often goes unnoticed, that is its nature.
Living Incongruous Lives
We don’t always want to admit that we’re living incongruous lives. Our ego is running the show after all. It’s often only when we’re stripped of our titles, or used our good intentions for personal gain that we realise. Only then can we begin to accept own our egoic blind spots.
Do these blind spots really negate whom we’re trying to be? Not at all. Yet being honest about our desire to be perceived in certain ways has greater value. Yes, even when we’re not living up to that role in our private lives. It’s just as important to acknowledge our faults as it is to try and actually be, a good man or woman.
The honesty referred to above, is not so much about being honest with others, but with ourselves. A willingness to own our B.S. and still feel able to look ourselves in the eye, is a step towards true authenticity. When we’re willing to be honest about our egoic stuff, then our pomposities can begin to heal. We can then truly say we’ve begun to walk our talk.
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