The furor over the arrest of renowned Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been painful to watch, even from the balcony of Life’s dramas: Scenes littered with suspicion, mistrust and accusations of racial profiling morphed into outrage, defensiveness, retaliation and, alas, some unfortunate mug shots. None of it—not the incident, the race-based commentary or what was really happening behind the scenes—was spiritually enlightening or positively evolutionary.
If you resisted the urge to jump onto this stage and fuel the flames of racial bigotry, if you maintained some distance and climbed into the balcony of the mayhem, then you had the benefit of being detached enough to see the character stealing each scene. You could almost hear him chortling. Uh huh, it was our devious friend Ego, the Anti-Christ, gleefully yanking everybody’s chain. Yes, I said it: Your, my, our ego is the Anti-Christ.
I didn’t think that I was the first to link the two; but just to make sure, I Googled “Ego Anti-Christ.” The numerous results included books such as Real Jesus, the psychology of anti-christ, and articles. One, “How to Recognize the Anti-Christ Within” leaped from the page. There was even an Oprah.com Community post, “The anti-Christ is NOT a person.”
Millions are waiting for the Anti-Christ to arrive, but it’s been here all along. It sits where we sit, stands where we stand, walks where we walk. And all too often, it speaks when we speak. It prods us to do and say things to others that we would not want done or said to us. It picks fights, fuels dissension, and causes us to choose angry force over peaceful power. It justifies righteous indignation over effective conflict resolution. It’s like a magnet, spinning our moral compass out of control.
Ego is the antithesis of the Christ spirit. It upstages maturity and intelligence. It stirs up mess, and through mass and social media, engages millions in divisive bickering that keeps us mired in the drama of Earth, distracting us from the greater reality of who we are and what Life is. Heaven forbid that we should choose peace, bliss out, and discover that we are more powerful than our egos led us to believe!
Ego is winning its battle for our souls, though not on merit. We’re forfeiting without even showing up.
Ego has a vested interest in highlighting our differences rather than our unifying divinity. It tells us that others are less human, less intelligent, less prosperous or not as beautiful as we are, and we should treat them offensively. We obey. It tells us that someone thinks they’re better than we are, and we should be offended. On cue, we shake our fists in rage, hearts pounding, glands sweating, blood pressure rising, literally making ourselves sick.
Ego doesn’t care whom it hurts. After all, hurt people hurt people. Hurt people also create more drama, so the ego’s manipulative mission has been accomplished. Ego will act a fool and make a fool wherever humans allow: in the opulent offices of global government and business leaders, in the squalor of tent cities, refugee camps and urban ghettos, and in quiet upscale neighborhoods such as Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In every case, the human mind makes a conscious decision to relinquish control to the devilish ego. We are not as conscious of the corresponding consequences, but that can change. At any moment, we can choose to act in our own best interest.
“I can be changed by what happens to me.
I refuse to be reduced by it.”
Whenever we let the ego force us to focus on the superficial, we volunteer to be reduced—sometimes in front of huge gawking audiences. Whenever we handcuff and book someone for screaming at us, we reduce ourselves to mere ego. Whenever we ask, “Is it because I’m Black?” or retort, “I’ll talk to your mama on the porch,” we’ve let the ego win. Whenever we label ourselves as anything other than children made in the image of the Love that is God, we’ve bought into the ego’s false claims that we are only humans, defined by our differences.
Situations often arise to help us remember who and whose we are. These teachable moments allow us to practice calling on the Light of God within to anchor us to our seats so that we won’t leap onto the stage of someone else’s ego-driven drama. These are times when we can work on perfecting the art of seeing the omnipresent God Light in everyone, no matter how they’re acting.
Truth has its rewards. Without these challenging or confrontational situations, when would we have an opportunity to demonstrate our values, stand firm in the truth of our own divinity, and refuse to be diminished by anything said or done?
Whatever your reaction to the lamentable drama in Cambridge, did you observe your own values on display when you spoke or wrote about it? Others certainly noticed. While responding to my comment about the incident on Denrique Preudhomme’s blog earlier this week, a woman declared that she didn’t believe that we should turn the other cheek and let God handle our problems. Furthermore, she said, God would not want us to back down from a fight with our tails tucked between our legs.
If she had not written that, the rest of us would not have known that she, like George W. Bush, perceived God as pugnacious rather than the Prince of Peace. I didn’t argue. We must give loving allowance for folks to believe what they believe. However, I did acknowledge my awareness that there are many who, like her, do not believe in the teachings of Jesus. (OK, so I also added that this is why we create, nurture and repeat these hurtful dramas. I admit that it might have been a bit judgmental. I’m working on that—mean it. Hey, if my soul was fully evolved, it wouldn’t be wearing this body.)
That brief online exchange was just another of my many self-awareness tests. Sometimes I pass, sometimes I fail. The most difficult part for me is maintaining conscious awareness that many times each day I will encounter these opportunities to speak and act from my empowering Divine-Self or my destructive Ego-Self. Each decision has its corresponding consequences, which should be incentive enough. And it is, when I remember instead of getting caught up in the drama.
It’s infinitely easier to detect these growth opportunities when I watch other folks’ dramas from the balcony of their lives. Recently, several friends have approached me for support after encountering dehumanizing individuals who hadn’t simply hidden their God Light under a bushel; they had buried it in a different zip code.
One friend wondered if the vile nature of her client’s in-your-face communication warranted an equally caustic and profane response “to show him who he was dealing with.” After all, she was no chump!
Because she was no chump, I suggested, wouldn’t it be a greater demonstration of her strength if she refused to allow him to blow out her Christ Light with his belittling rants? Any chump can throw verbal garbage or physical blows. Any small person can try to feel bigger by diminishing the worth of others. Only the strong can turn the other cheek, knowing that the power of the Almighty is within them. She liked that idea and accepted the challenge to flex that muscle.
A few days ago, another dear friend and mentor, a phenomenal manager in the business world, demonstrated that he is also an awesome leader in the real world. His boss, frustrated that he did not have the authority to fire my friend, spewed venomous, demeaning language in his face.
My friend didn’t react, no matter how disrespectfully the man behaved in this professional setting. He refused to relinquish his power. He refused to allow the out-of-control being on the other side of the desk to force him to abandon the refuge of his Christ-Self.
He calmly observed his boss’s tantrum. In fact, he said, he felt sorry for the man—and with good reason: Despite his considerable education, this man did not know what he was doing to himself physically or spiritually. He did not know that his fury was creating a chemical time bomb in his body. He did not know that this is a reap-what-you-sow world: Whatever you do will be done to you. He also did not know that your anger cannot control others’ bodies, minds or behavior unless they allow.
Luckily, most of us can exist an entire lifetime without being subjected to scenarios with this level of toxicity. I can’t say with certainty that I would have responded appropriately if I had encountered this situation before my mentor modeled—with a capital “M”—how to exude sheer power. If he can do it, we can do it.
He didn’t simply accept the opportunity to be Christ-like, he owned it. He was like the proverbial tree that’s planted in the water: He would not be moved. Despite his boss’s numerous attempts to drown him in darkness and goad him into responding insubordinately, my friend stood strong and tall in the Light, knowing that Darkness and Light cannot occupy the same space at the same time. By making this choice, he and the Light actually became One.
The irony here is that one man was a Christian minister. The other wasn’t. Guess which.
It was Ego who walked off that stage with his tail tucked between his legs—a defeat that did little to spoil its high batting average in many other places in the world, including Cambridge. Perhaps we can further diminish its influence and impact if we simply shed light on other instances in which we held the Anti-Christ at bay. (Now wouldn’t that be a Revelation?)
What challenges have you faced that you’ve overcome in a powerful way? Or if you missed an opportunity, with hindsight, how would you have handled it more effectively?