Ego vs. Soul
I woke up the other morning to a barrage of text messages and emails from my bank because my debit card had been hacked overnight. The perpetrator had attempted nearly fifty charges of one variety or another.
Thankfully, my bank was on the job and recognized that something was amiss, so they shut the card down. However, the attempts continued with the miscreant who had gotten my card information. They kept trying even when I was on the phone with the bank's fraud department.
By the time everything was sorted out and all the claims had been filed, I was in a foul mood. I thought about all the aggravation I was about to face as I had to wait for my new debit card to arrive, reset all my subscriptions, etc.
I told my oldest son about the fiasco and angrily said I would love to spend five minutes alone with the person who hacked my card.
"The world would be better off without people like that," I said. "It's good that I'm not God because I'd straight up vanish some people."
Then my son said something that hit me right in the gut. "I don't think you would," he told me. "I think you'd come right up to the moment, and then you would think better of it."
I've been thinking about what he said ever since.
Even though I replied to him silently in my thoughts, "You don't know that, and the way I feel right now, I'd probably prove you wrong, kid," I was struck by the fact that my son saw goodness in me, and it was humbling.
I would like to think that he's right about me. But I also know that a constant struggle occurs within me between what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the ego and the soul. We all feel that struggle from time to time.
Fr. Richard puts it like this:
The ego is formed by contraction; the soul is formed by expansion. The ego pulls into itself by comparing, competing, and separating itself from others: “I am not like that,” it says. The soul, however, does exactly the opposite: “I am that.” (Tat Tvam Asi, as the Hindus say). It sees itself in God, the other, flowers and trees, animals, and even the enemy: similarity instead of separateness.
When our ego runs the show, we do terrible things to ourselves and others. We operate out of a heightened sense of security and scarcity. We lash out in anger to protect ourselves. We push away, believing that autonomy is the only way to find peace.
But as Fr. Richard teaches, true peace can't be found in the autonomy of our ego. Peace is attained when we realize our connectedness with God, one another, and the world, which is the soul's work.
We must do the good work of nourishing our souls and silencing our egos. We do this through prayer and contemplation, spending time in nature, practicing self-awareness, and letting ourselves feel the connections and intersections we share with others.
May you find ways to let your soul guide you today into connection and empathy. May you discover all the ways you find similarity, even with those you struggle to feel connected to.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.