* to encourage a reasoned awareness of how our beliefs impact the way we interact with the world around us
* to foster intelligent and open dialogue
* to inspire a sense of spirituality that has real meaning in day-to-day life

Monday, November 17, 2014

John 6: Fully Consuming Our Values (or how a Humanist interprets symbolic cannibalism)

As with the previous chapter, John 6 is arranged as a miracle story followed by theological commentary. It's possible to take shorter passages and comment on them as distinct ideas, but the text obviously connects the ideas of Jesus providing food for the masses and claiming to be "bread of life". While we strolled through the gospel of Mark, we took a look at some possible lessons from the story of the five thousand being fed. The version of the story in John doesn't diverge all that much from the story as it appeared in Mark, so we can perhaps just make a few comments about that miracle story and move on into this "bread of life" business.

Some have implied that the feeding of the five thousand suggests a creation miracle. This is one possibility, since there's nothing to require miracle stories to match practical reality. Certainly, the people in the story seem to think that it is an impressive trick, because the author has them pursuing Jesus to see more magic. One might wonder, though, what is the point of creating so much more than needed? Twelve baskets full of food is wastefully more than what was necessary to feed the people there. Either the character of Jesus is a poor judge of appetite, or the twelve baskets are symbolic rather than literal. As to what they symbolize, your guess is as good as anyone else's.

It is apparent from the story, however, that people are impressed enough with Jesus' ability to meet their physical needs that they want to coerce or force him into a position of leadership of their own design. Quite possibly they are revolutionaries, ready to find someone to lead them against Rome. Maybe they are less willing to work for their own well-being if there is someone for whom it is effortless. Strange that the crowds will travel great distances and inconvenience themselves in order for someone else to provide for them. Maybe we are simply meant to see these people as those who couldn't provide for themselves—people who were able to pursue Jesus around the countryside because they had no prospects for work that would provide for their basic needs. Or maybe they are just characters in a story that represent something. Maybe the reader is meant to identify with this wonderstruck crowd.

There's some indication that the Jesus character in the gospel of John is positioned as a "new Moses," a spiritual leader who is superior to Moses and who will lead the people of his generation into freedom. In the Hebrew scriptures, the Israelites are led by Moses out of Egypt and into a barren wilderness, where they eat manna (literally "what is it?"), which Moses tells them is the bread that the Lord has given them to eat. So this passage equating Jesus with a provider of food connects him to Moses covertly, but the author(s) of John make this connection explicit in the theological exposition that follows the miracle story.

Incidentally, we're more or less skimming past the bit about the Jesus character walking on water. There simply isn't much to the scene aside from a fanciful bit of Christian mythology. Perhaps this is intended to demonstrate that Jesus is God, since in a Jewish context, God is the one who controls nature. This is an understandable assertion given the beliefs of Christians, but there just isn't much else to draw from it except that Christians find their supernaturally divine version of Jesus to be compelling.

After recounting the tale of miraculous provision of bread and fish for five thousand ill-prepared revolutionaries and Jesus’ escape from their seditionist desires by walking across the sea, the author of John expresses something about the identity of Jesus and the requirements of participating in the kingdom of heaven. We might gain some insight from this passage about our own identities and how we build a better world. True to an internal formula of the fourth gospel, the author conveys this teaching through discourses between Jesus and the hungry crowd, Jesus and the Jews, and Jesus and his disciples. The distinction in these verses centers around “bread that perishes” versus “true bread from heaven.” With the hungry crowd, the author establishes that there really is no comparison between Moses and Jesus, though both spiritual leaders provided sustenance. According to John’s author, Jesus turns the traditional concept of manna on its head. No longer is manna contextualized as heaven-sent, life-giving provision, but it is rather one more example of food that perishes. Everyone who ate of the manna in the wilderness died; by contrast, there is a spiritual bread which nourishes more deeply and abundantly.

Jesus is portrayed here as cunningly insightful with regard to the crowd’s intentions. As with other conversations in the gospel of John, Jesus expresses dismay that people continually want to be amazed with signs and miracles—more eager to have things done for them through supernatural means than they are to assume personal responsibility for their own spiritual maturity. Thus, “bread” in John 6 quickly becomes about much more than physical food; Jesus suggests that preoccupation with one’s appetite for material things will cease to have priority once one gets a taste of more substantive spiritual food. An unfortunate quality of the “bread of life” Jesus offers is that it is a bit more challenging than his listeners are willing to accept, and it is perhaps a challenge to the Jewish authorities that seek to define the spiritual lives of their flocks through precise legalism. While many believers find a reflection of the communion ritual or an assertion of the redemptive power of Jesus’ crucifixion, it’s more likely that the bread of life offered here is a way of being—a path of genuine, fearless love—that threatens to undermine societal structures of control and power.

This isn’t stated explicitly in the gospel, however; the gospel writer simply has Jesus proclaim that he is the bread of life. When the Jewish authorities start to get upset that Jesus claims to have come from heaven, he exacerbates their frustration by claiming that people need to eat his flesh as if it were bread. In fact, he claims that he offers nourishment for the entire world. Jesus even goes a step further and claims that people can only experience heaven if they eat his flesh and drink his blood. At this, even Jesus’ disciples blanch (which in and of itself is enough to suggest that this passage symbolizes something other than a communion ritual, with which an early Christian audience would presumably have been familiar). Beyond that, Jesus then clarifies that he is not talking about physical nourishment but about spiritual nourishment, noting that the spiritual way of life he promoted was something that many people simply could not stomach.

Miraculous provision of food and causing a stir at the temple is all very inspiring, but people even today seem less interested in a teaching that challenges them to live with greater integrity and intentionality. Some Christian thinkers have also seen this passage as dealing with something beyond an uncontroversial communion ceremony. Martin Luther considered this discourse to be a teaching about faith. “Belief in” Jesus is what is meant by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. At the time that Luther was writing on this passage, however, it was apparently unimportant to define what it meant to “believe in” Jesus. Luther doesn’t go into specifics.

While not likely, it’s possible that the gospel writer intended to convey that faith in Jesus is the one true way to an eternal spiritual life that begins at the moment of one’s death, having little to do with one’s actual earthly existence save the singular decision to believe and perhaps the drive to persuade others to make a similar singular decision in anticipation of earthly death. The portrayal of Jesus' commandments, however, suggests something beyond a mere decision to believe. There is a call to live differently, which may or may not have any connection with a belief in an afterlife. There are behavioral implications to eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus, and it is likely that the author of John had strong reasons for pointing this out to his own community.

So, we can read John 6 from a perspective that acknowledges Jesus as a model of expected behavior. In the story of the ancient Israelites, Yahweh (through Moses) had provided physical sustenance. Yet, physical sustenance does not provide life; it only delays death. Deep, meaningful, satisfying life must come from something deeper, more meaningful, and more satisfying than mere physical sustenance. Spiritual sustenance is gained through commitment to a way of being, represented here by Jesus’ life and actions. (We can also acknowledge different people who provide equally powerful examples of an inspiring way of being.)

You can’t experience abundant life in small doses, only attempting to exhibit deep love, compassion, and justice when it's convenient. Instead, you have to absorb deeply the very human identity of being loving, compassionate, and just in order to experience abundant life. In the terms of the author of John, you have to take in the very essence of the way of being Jesus represents. “Believing in” Jesus thus becomes synonymous with trusting that the way of life he promotes is possible and preferable. “Believing in” Jesus means recognizing that one must set aside all objections and fears, and consume his way of being into the deepest core of oneself. You don't have to believe that Jesus was a historical fact or that he was any more divine that anyone else in order to wholeheartedly imbibe a loving, compassionate, just way of being.

Incidentally, interpreting the passage this way also takes into consideration the author’s frustration with demands for miracles—actions that ordinary people can't perform. Expecting miracles causes people to rely on some external means of fixing their problems, an external provision of abundant life. What the Jesus character suggests is that there is some personal responsibility for abundant life, fueled internally by individual willingness to transform one’s way of being.

This is as difficult a teaching as cannibalism. Some people have managed to justify actually eating flesh and drinking blood. Fewer people have lived with fearless love as a primary guiding principle. This is an offensive suggestion for both those who have nothing and those who believe they have much to protect, as challenging a call to those people who are oppressed as to those people who benefit from the oppression of others. Living by a principle of universal and fearless love might be exactly what is intended by abundant life, and yet it seems to require more from an individual than it offers to that individual. This is why one must take in that identity completely—to figuratively consume everything about a loving, compassionate, just way of being—to believe in the possibility and desirability of that identity without reservation. Otherwise, our own doubts and fears will always stand in the way of abundant life.

We have to decide where we are in this story about us. Are you a member of the crowd waiting for someone else to be responsible for providing you with a deeply satisfying experience of life? Abundant life can't be given, it has to be lived out. Perhaps you're ready to recognize your own responsibility for living into an identity that reflects a best possible version of yourself. 

Are you in superficial agreement with guiding principles about being loving, compassionate, and just, but doubtful that you can live out those principles in the world? Our guiding principles are there to guide us. When we set them aside for what seem like more reasonable courses of action, we are letting fear get in the way of what we claim to believe. Perhaps you're ready to imbibe your principles more deeply—to take them in completely so that you draw on those values with confidence and conviction.

Are you finding it a challenge to live with integrity and intentionality by guiding principles that contribute to greater well-being in the world, because you seem to give a lot more universal and fearless love than you get in return? Sometimes we have to seek out relationships with other people who are as deeply committed to their guiding principles. And when we aren't getting what we want, it may be because we aren't asking for what we want. If it matters to you that your life reflects your deepest values, perhaps you're ready to seek out the kinds of people who will empower and encourage you in a meaningful way. These aren't always the people who have known us the longest. At the same time, no one can provide the kind of support and encouragement you most want if you don't let people know what you want and need.

A Little Experiment: Act the part. Our actions are fueled by our beliefs, and yet sometimes we have to act on our values even before we are completely confident in our ability to do so. This week, take responsibility for a behavior that reflects a best possible version of yourself, even if you think it won't go so well. If you know what a best possible version of yourself would do, then your behavior will build your confidence in that vision of who you can be.

Another Experiment: Imbibe deeply. If you've done the work in previous weeks of writing down your guiding principles, read over them every day and notice when you have opportunities to live them out. When we make decisions on auto-pilot, we are more likely to let our fear or anxiety guide us. When we are more intentional and thoughtful, our guiding principles can play a bigger part of our decision-making.

One More Experiment: Speak up. Have a conversation with someone you typically expect encouragement and empowerment from. Let that person know what you are trying to change in terms of living more intentionally and with greater integrity to your deepest values. Also, let that person know what you would like from them. They may be excited to be a part of your journey. They may say, no thanks. This can be very difficult to hear, but either way, you will know better what to expect from that relationship. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John 5:16-47 Values and Personal Authority

After the man from last week's passage was healed, the story goes on in John 5 to describe how the Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus. In a classic case of miscommunication, the Pharisees in the story hear and interpret Jesus' words in the most controversial way possible. The Jesus of this story tries to explain himself more clearly, but the concepts he is describing are difficult to understand and his audience doesn't really want to understand. 

Even though some of the ideas the authors insert into this passage are intended as literal, we no longer find them credible. Today, some may still contend that the dead are going to rise from their graves and be judged by a mighty supernatural. While this might encourage a morality of fear in some, it is obvious that many people are not persuaded to behave differently because of this threat. Even some people who claim to believe in this sort of judgment leading to eternal punishment or reward seem quite willing to do things that most folks would consider to be evil. There is no evidence to suggest its veracity, yet people have believed it for centuries. In all that time, belief in an afterlife has not perfected humanity. So, whether or not we want to believe in the mythology presented here, it doesn't seem fruitful to consider its merits. We are very sneaky in our beliefs, and we will find a way to believe what we want, no matter what is actually written on a page or spoken by a religious authority. There is a bit of the Pharisees' mode of listening in all of us.

What can we gain, then, from this exposition? Jesus seems to be defining his connection to and relationship with God, and he seems to be doing so in a very specific context of an ancient Jewish culture. Since we are not ancient Jews, we have to reframe a few things in order to make it meaningful in our own context. Let's first take a look at exactly what is being said.

First, Jewish leaders were angry because it seemed to them that Jesus was doing something unlawful. Jesus' provocative response was that God was still at work, so there was no reason for people not to work if they chose to do so. The story suggests that the Jewish leaders took umbrage at the implication that Jesus was making himself equal to God. This is a little bit odd, since Jews referred to God as Father long before Jesus -- the Old Testament often compares God to a loving parent, nearly always in the masculine sense. So, this may say something about the authors of John.

Next, Jesus tries to explain himself more clearly, saying that people can only do what is modeled for them, and he considers God to be a worthwhile model. He promises great and astonishing works, and forecasts a future grave-emptying judgment of all people, based on their merits. That is, Jesus promises that people will be judged by their deeds. He doesn't seem to have any other criteria in mind by which people might attain life abundant.

Finally, Jesus says not to take him at his word, but to verify what he says with other reliable witnesses and by the evidence in his life and actions. He points out that people have a limited perspective, and that sometimes they maintain a limited perspective by choice, especially when they can see themselves as superior. Yet, they do not realize how their own perspective ultimately condemns them to a life that is less than what it could be. Specifically, the Jews were relying on their scriptures and their legalistic sense of morality and ethics, yet in so doing, they missed the point of their identity as human beings. 

It's easy to look down on the Jewish leaders here, especially since the authors of John paint such a hostile picture of them. We can all see in ourselves a bit of the behavior we despise in others, though. We all choose not to listen to what someone is actually saying sometimes, especially when we hear something we can pounce on or be offended by. Sometimes, we all choose to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. We make sure the laws and rules we live by work in our favor, and we let some of our own behavior slide, even though it is "wrong" by our own standards. And we expect other people to behave the way we want them to behave, even when they haven't agreed to our set of rules. We want to be judged based on our best days, and we want our worst days to be forgiven and ignored. Yet we sometimes hold grudges against other people, and we are loathe to let others live down mistakes. 

It doesn't have to be like that. We don't have to be like that. The problem in all of that messy behavior is that we let our fear count for more than our hope. We are afraid of all sorts of things, and we may not even realize it. Some people are afraid of being overlooked, or of being wrong, or of being caught making a mistake. Being unacceptable. Being judged. Being unimportant. Being taken advantage of. Being alone. Being mistreated. Being ridiculed. Failing. Succeeding. We're afraid of all sorts of things. If we don't manage our fears, we can't live fully. If we don't manage our fears, we can't begin to approach a best possible version of ourselves.

As much as we can see ourselves in the Pharisees' behavior, we can also see ourselves in a different light. We are first and foremost accountable to ourselves. As much as we fear about how other people see us, we can't control other people. We can be responsible for ourselves. One key way for us to manage our fears is for us to have a clear sense of who we are -- to be self-defined. When we allow other people to define us, we fail to take responsibility for ourselves. And often, we take our definition from what we think other people think of us, without ever even verifying if our suspicions are correct. Even when we know what other people think of us, though, our identity is up to us.

One way that we define ourselves is by being very clear about our values -- about the things that matter most to us. This requires a bit of thought, and many people simply don't take the time. When we know what we value most, we can set clearer boundaries for our own behavior and in our relationships with others. We will likely have to go back over our values a few times, especially if we are used to making decisions based on fear. Our first run at defining our values might be based on our fears without us realizing it, and we have to ask some challenging questions and dig a little deeper if we want to get at the principles that we most want to guide our lives. 

You may think that you have a value of keeping someone in your life happy. This is misguided. You do not control another person's happiness. What are you afraid of if this person is unhappy? What belief about yourself is underneath that fear?

You may think that you have a value of making enough money to live comfortably. What is comfortable? Is your definition likely to change as you earn more? Is there a fear of scarcity underneath that value? Or a fear that you won't be acceptable to others if you don't have a certain lifestyle? Money is necessary, but money is just a way for us to do the things we value. Money accomplishes nothing on its own. What is the actual value that will direct what you do with the money you have?

This work is not quick, and it may take a lot of introspection before you arrive at a clear expression of the things that matter most to you. We might not be accustomed to doing this sort of work. It takes a bit of adjustment from our normal way of thinking. And once we've clarified some values, it takes some practice to live by them. Reminders every morning, thinking more intentionally about our decisions, and even talking through possibilities can help us adjust to living with integrity to the values we define.

Our values are part of what I think of as a deepest, most noble self -- a piece of us that is not based on fear, but on a sense of our capability, creativity, and beauty as human beings. Our deepest, most noble selves are always present, even though we often lose connection with what it means to be fully human. We second-guess our own sense of values -- our own identities -- because our fears get in the way. Our own sense of authentic personal authority comes from our deepest, most noble self, even though we sometimes look to other things to feel a sense of authority.

We have the potential for everything that we do to be sourced by our deepest, most noble selves -- for all of our actions and decisions to be based on our real values and guiding principles. If we work toward this level of integrity and intentionality, the results in our lives and in our relationships can be astonishing. We can experience life in a new way, with less of a sense that we are victims at the mercy of our circumstances or other people's whims -- a more vibrant life in which we have a clear sense of purpose and empowerment.

None of this happens by accident in our lives. We cannot continue on auto-pilot and expect anything to change in our lives. As we listen more deeply to ourselves and consider what a best possible version of ourselves might look like, we can live more intentionally into that vision of us. We are inclined to make up stories about ourselves, like "I'm working on that issue," or "One of these days, I'll figure out how to..." We often like affirming, positive words about ourselves. We'll know that what we claim about ourselves is true by what others see in our lives and by the actual evidence in how we behave. Other people won't necessarily approve of changes in our behavior, but when we change how we do things, the people around us will probably notice. If nothing looks different about how we live, chances are, nothing has really changed about how we are living.

The idea is not to have a different set of rules to live by. We have a habit of taking rules and twisting them so that we still think it's fine for us to do whatever it is we want to do. The idea is for us to claim responsibility for our own identities, for our own actions and decisions, so that our experience of life is more fulfilling. And if we are really paying attention to our values -- to our deepest, most noble selves -- our lives are more fulfilling when we are doing things that contribute to the well-being of others. We cannot define ourselves in isolation from everyone else. We are defined in part by the way we relate to others. So, our values and our guiding principles connect to how we are in relationship with other people. 

If the Jewish leaders in the story of John 5 had their way, they wouldn't pay any attention to someone needing help on the Sabbath. Their rules were strict, and they were afraid of what would happen if the rules were not obeyed. When we set aside fear, we can more easily see people as human beings of inherent worth and dignity, and our values can direct our actions more clearly than a set of abstract rules for behavior. This is the point of understanding our values. If we have a clear sense of personal identity and a clear sense of what matters most to us in life, we can more easily make decisions about how we will connect to other people and to the world around us. It is a different way of living than simply going with our automatic reactions, and I would offer that it is a more satisfying and fulfilling way of engaging in life. 

A Little Experiment: Know thyself. This is a repeat of a little experiment from a few weeks back, when I suggested that you write down your values -- the things that matter most to you in life. These are not the ways that you think you need to protect yourself from a hostile world. These are the things that you believe would make the world better for everyone. How do you most want to show up? What do you want to contribute to a better world? Write down your values, even if you aren't living by them very intentionally right now. Read over them a few times this week.

Another Little Experiment: Find the fear. Take one of your values and examine it carefully. Is there some fear about yourself or other people underneath that value? What would that value look like if you let go of that fear? Would it still be something you hold as important? Or is there something more important to you once the fear is out of the way?

One More Little Experiment: Intentional decisions. When you are faced with a decision this week, take a moment and consider your first impulse. Is it reflective of a best possible version of yourself? If so, celebrate that! If not, what option would be a better representation of who you most want to be? What is keeping you from making a decision that lines up clearly with your values?

Monday, November 3, 2014

John 5:1-15 False Identity, Blame, and Healing

Similar to the stories that we observed some time ago in the gospel of Mark, the next passage in John 5 is a healing passage in which Jesus oversees the healing of a paralytic man on the Sabbath and catches some heat for it from Jewish religious leaders. As has become our habit, we will not get bogged down in fruitless discussion about historical accuracy. There is simply nothing in that debate to empower us in our lives. There are a couple of interesting details worth noting in this passage, each of which we will unpack a little bit. First, Jesus does nothing apart from talk to the man. Second, the man then carries his mat around of his own volition. Finally, there is an implication that there will be further consequences based on the man's actions.

Unlike many biblical healing stories, there is no ritual action that takes place here. Jesus simply talks to the man and tells him to get up. Actually, first he asks, "Do you want to be well?" And then he says, "Get up and go on about your life." Perhaps something miraculous took place, or perhaps this man had convinced himself that he was incapable of living his life fully. Once the identity of "cripple" is taken on, it might be easier just to give in to that label and reinforce it through daily actions.

What are the labels in our lives that we accept and carry around for years? Lazy? Incompetent? Worthless? Ugly? Selfish? Stupid? No-talent? Damaged goods? Even though none of these are physical labels, they can be crippling nonetheless. It's likely that someone else put this label on us first, but we had to determine whether to accept that identity and live it out. When these kinds of words come from someone important or influential to us, it's really tough not to accept it as truth.

For many of us, it is not as simple as discarding the label and living into a different identity. The first step we have to take, though, is declaring that we want to be well. We have to know that we want to have a different vision for our lives. As long as we are willing to look for evidence to support the crippling labels we have taken on, we will find plenty of evidence. When we are willing to live into a different identity, we can begin to find supporting evidence of a more empowering set of declarations. This takes time, because we've probably developed a habit of reinforcing a crippling identity. So the story shows us a moment that is symbolic of a long trajectory of personal work. Taking on a more authentic and empowering identity is certainly worth the effort. I point out that it's going to take some time so that we don't get discouraged when our habits don't change in a moment.

The story doesn't end there, though. When the man with the mat recognizes that his identity as a cripple is a false identity, he gets up and carries his mat. He probably knows that it is unlawful to do certain things on the Sabbath in his culture (although the authors of John may be engaging in a bit of exaggeration here, since it was still permitted to carry personal items short distances on the Sabbath). Maybe this fellow was just on his way home when he was accosted. Maybe he was running around town telling everyone that he had recovered from his false identity. There's no telling. It doesn't really matter for the story to make its point.

Whatever he was doing, the man with the mat was not taking responsibility for his own behavior. He was the one carrying a mat. He was the one who had stood up and started walking. Yet, when he is confronted about his behavior, he shifts the blame to someone else. "That other person told me to do this, and so I did it." Really? We recognize immediately how weaselly this response is, and yet, we often say very similar things in our lives.

When anxiety builds, especially when we are personally confronted about our behavior, we often try to make that anxiety go away by finding someone else to blame. "I was only following orders." "This is how I was told to do it." It seems like such a good excuse, but the bottom line is that we are claiming not to be able to think for ourselves. In blaming others for our behavior, we are claiming that we should not be held responsible for what we do. We even go so far as to blame other people for our anger -- and the things we do and say when we're angry.

The bottom line is that blaming others is a dishonest reaction to anxiety. We are responsible for our actions, even if we do something based on another person's advice. It's unfortunate that we are often rewarded for effectively laying blame at someone else's feet. That we get away with it sometimes still does not make it laudable. If we want to become more emotionally mature -- if we want to have a more satisfying and fulfilling experience in our lives -- we must reject the temptation to shift blame to someone else. Certainly, we should be honest about our actions and the influences that we are able to identify. We can do this and still be responsible for our own decisions.

At the end of the passage, the Jesus character tells the man that his new identity still needs care. "What you do next will have consequences." Now, Jesus says something here that suggests that being crippled was a result of some sin that the man committed. This is contrary to what the gospel says elsewhere, and it doesn't help that it has some language that has become rather loaded. Another way to think about it is: If your actions do not line up with your guiding principles, you will know it by the consequences you experience. Even when your actions do line up with your guiding principles, there may be short-term consequences you don't like. All of our actions have consequences. When we live into a best possible version of ourselves, we will have greater peace about how we handle the consequences of our behavior. When our actions are more principled, we stand a better chance of having the experience of life that we want.

The man was either a bit dull or he didn't like the threatening tone of Jesus' warning, because he went back and reported to the Jewish leaders. Even when we claim a new identity, we will be faced with difficult decisions. It takes practice to keep showing up as the people we most want to be in the world -- as people with clear guiding principles, growing in emotional maturity. If we choose not to take responsibility for our identities, we will have plenty of opportunities to slip back into old lies about who we really are, and we will have plenty of opportunities to start believing new lies about who we really are. It's helpful sometimes to consider what others see, but if we choose to take on what others see in us, that's still our choice. We are responsible for our own well-being. We are responsible for our own identities.

Do you want to be well? Stop living into the false identity you've taken on and live into a better vision of yourself. Start now. Take responsibility for your own actions and your own identity. As you clarify your values and guiding principles, commit to aligning your actions and decisions with those values. This is the way of healing.

A Little Experiment: Taking responsibility. The next time you find yourself starting to blame someone else for your own behavior, stop and take responsibility. See what happens when you are authentic and honest.

A Big Experiment: Rebranding. What inauthentic label do you need to be done with? What would it take for you to adopt a new label that more accurately reflects your values and principles? If you can identify one lie about yourself that you've taken on, you can probably extrapolate something true about yourself to live into. For instance, if you have been carrying around that you are incompetent, you might start looking for honest evidence of your competence. It will take time to get rid of an old habitual lie, but this is the path toward a best possible version of yourself.