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Getting Real, Being True, and Having Self-Awareness

Sinners, Stars, Saints, and Spectators

The power of the True Self lies in each of us. Every physician, counselor, and confessor knows from all of those who come to see them that each of us is flawed, yet through our challenges, successes, and failures we can grow. We are all in the process of growing toward wholeness and realizing our True Self. The goal is not to become an idealized star or perfect saint, because these are illusions (fantasies rather than realities) and destructive delusions (unrealistic goals that may be pursued yet result in missing life). Our True Self helps us to understand how God’s grace is available and part of us now, available to the extent to which we attune to it and develop it.

Self-awareness of our True Self keeps us from generalizing about good and evil in the extreme. It is certainly appropriate to be skeptical of those who are said to walk on water. On the other hand, such skepticism may be a great disservice, as it inadvertently takes us off the hook: “Since I am not, nor can never be so good, I will watch from the sidelines.” We thus become spectators of life--and may miss our own potentialities. Many religious bookstores report that their highest sales are accounts of saints’ lives. While it can be inspiring to read about heroes, are we ready to know them up close as models to confront challenges of our lives? Or will we be mere spectators applauding and observing their vital lives? Will we defer to the challenges in our life because we dismiss ourselves disabled sinners? Or can we bring their life force to light the fire of our life?

There is a story in the literature of the Desert Fathers about a man who went out to meet St. Anthony, the renowned monastic who had overcome the temptations of the devil and to whom many miracles had been ascribed. As he searched the barren desert, the man came across an elderly wanderer and, not engaging him personally, sought only advice as to where he might find the revered saint. The old man said that he didn’t know of such a person, nor had he heard of any saint. In despair the pilgrim continued his search. After time passed, he returned to his village and shared his lack of success with the religious elders. To his surprise the elders replied: “You actually met him. St. Anthony was the old man with whom you spoke.” However, the man was so driven to run after his image in search of St. Anthony that he failed to see and embrace the opportunity that he had when he actually encountered him.

We often seek Truth outside of our self and miss it or pass it by when it’s right in front of us because we really don’t see it because we don't recognize it. When we have access to our True Self, we recognize Truth because it resonates within our own intrinsic qualities. To look for what is good only outside of our self is a denial of our True Self—the good that we each possess. The True Self confirms the only dependency and connection on which we can depend – who is God. We cannot ultimately depend on others and even upon our own self--as these are not truly dependable: how many times have we disappointed ourselves, much less felt disappointment from others? How many times have we said, “I’ll never do that,” and later did exactly what we said we would never do? And how many times have we taken a position that we said we would never change, and then, afterwards change our mind?

By discovering our True Self, engaging our potential, and tapping into the power that is within, we are not spectators of life but players, in the best sense of the word, being fully real and living our truth, among those fully alive sinners, saints, and stars.

John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of True Coming of Age: A Dynamic Process That Leads to Emotional Stability Spiritual Growth, and Meaningful Relationships. For more information please visit, and

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