Locating the character of the divine within oneself is not really a new concept. The idea has been incorporated into the belief systems of other religions and philosophies, some of which are older than Christianity and evolved parallel to Judaism. Still, some people have concerns about looking within because they are afraid they will be disappointed by what they find. One writer stated that when he looked within himself, he found only selfishness -- that all of his relationships and activities revolved around what others could do for him. He determined that there needed to be more to his life than this selfishness, and so he turned to the Christian church to find that something more. My question would be: What informed the belief that there needed to be more than selfishness? If one is only relying on what is within oneself, and one arrives at the conclusion that selfish behavior leads to a certain emptiness in life, mustn't one conclude that something within oneself contributed to that conclusion? Something deeper than the surface level selfishness?
Different people will have different answers to that question, but what makes sense to me is that human beings are complex creatures and that one cannot merely glance within and gain a complete picture. We have layers of thoughts and beliefs, and it requires a bit of work to truly be connected with oneself. This is not all that different from what the writers of Deuteronomy wanted the Jewish people to understand. It is a simple thing to say, "Love the Lord your God," but most people require a bit of guidance to put that command into practice. Similarly, it is an easy thing to say, "Seek the divine within," but most people would actually appreciate a little more direction on that journey. Deuteronomy 6 elucidates that command for the Israelites, so what follows is how I would update that chapter in light of a new understanding of the divine. As the biblical chapter refers to the Ten Commandments in its opening line, I refer to the agreements from last week's discussion.
If you are willing to make these agreements with yourself, you stand a much greater chance of living a happy and satisfying life. Cultivate respect for yourself and you will find it easier to respect others. Love yourself and you will be better able to love others. This requires constant awareness, and it can mean working through many false ideas that you've learned through the years. Because there are many other voices and ideas in the world, you may find that you are reminding yourself of the truth about your value repeatedly. This is not in any way a weakness; it's simply the process of recognizing a deep truth and beauty and creativity on which you haven't been very focused.
This is what it takes to have confidence in honoring and valuing human beings (yourself included): Talk about the truth of human value whenever you have the chance, whether in the privacy of your own home or walking about in public. Put up visual reminders of this truth in your home, your car, your office, and wherever else you spend time, so that you will constantly be drawn back to the reality of your worth and the worth of the people around you. And if you teach your children
to value, honor, and respect themselves and other people, they will have
a much easier time living meaningful lives as adults.
Be grateful for what you have. Recognize the benefits in your life that came about because of the generosity of others, and acknowledge the things you have created yourself. When you are grateful, it is much more difficult to be distracted by petty disappointments, by superficial comparisons, or by pangs of entitlement that tempt you to place your value above that of other people. When you are grateful, it is much easier to see the value of other people, to be generous with what you have, and to be connected to yourself, other people, and the world. In short, gratitude makes life more satisfying.
Trust yourself. Even when you make a misstep, trust yourself to be able to improve upon it. Test the beliefs that other people try to instill in you, and weigh cultural concepts against the truth of human value. Our creativity can be a double-edged sword, because we can create all manner of distractions away from the reality of our own intrinsic value. It's tempting to focus on acquiring money or things, to concentrate on what makes some people "better" than other people, or to shift personal responsibility for our lives away from ourselves. These lines of thinking will never help us to realize our full potential. Trust yourself to be able to see your own worth and the value of the people around you. If you see something less than that in the behavior and beliefs you've adopted, look deeper. At the core of your being is undeniable and connecting truth, a deep sense of beauty, and inspiring creativity. It's at the core of all of us, even if we have covered it up with other things. Trust yourself to find it within you.