Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 2, 2015

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Respecting Ourselves

(The Way of Integrity: Part 3)

What do we respect in ourselves? The self-centered ego driven by greed and anger and all manner of petty desires and fears? Or the one in us who is centered in our higher nature, who pursues our fulfilling passions, nurtures our friendships and family, and can be trusted to do the right thing? Though we may often succumb to our desires and small fears, we generally do not respect those aspects of ourselves. Perhaps surprisingly, though, the way toward integrity involves respecting every aspect, every force in us, including those we should not and do not act on. If we do not respect ourselves, we are inherently divided, and lack integrity in the sense of wholeness. Self-respect is the glue that holds our integrity together.

But to put further nuance to this notion, self-respect need not lack discrimination. While we respect our body and all parts of our personality and character, we need not respect our actions, if they do not accord with integrity. By respecting our actions when we do the right thing, we promote those actions in ourselves. So respect can be a force for integrity and for action based on integrity. We do not want to feel ashamed of ourselves. We want to earn and merit our own respect, to be at peace with who we are and what we do. So we aim to act in a way that we can respect.

Yet a great part of our makeup lies beyond our control. We have only limited influence on our body. We are given this body with its genetic strengths and weaknesses. Do we reject our body, or parts of it? Or do we embrace the whole of it with full respect, even the aspects we do not like? Respecting our body leads us to take proper care of it and to inhabit it more, by way of sensing. In this way, our body becomes part of our integrity.

We have limited influence on our emotions. If we are anxious or depressed, especially if chronically so, do we reject this aspect of ourselves, and thereby heap another emotional wound on top of the underlying issue? Rather than rejecting how things are with us, if we can find compassion and respect for our emotions, we can feel whole, even if not perfect.

On the other side, self-respect does not mean arrogance; it works best with humility. Self-respect leaves room for self-improvement. Instead of trying to escape from or hide our shortcomings, we simply seek to improve, not out of self-rejection, but rather to become more completely ourselves. If we can forgo the inner war against ourselves, we can have much more energy and attention for what matters beyond ourselves: for our family, for our community, and for the Sacred.

Notice also that self-respect neither demands nor needs the respect of others. Nevertheless, others will tend to respect us, if we respect ourselves and act with integrity. Conversely, the more we respect ourselves, the more we will respect others, because ultimately what we respect in ourselves is the same as what we respect in others.

There is something very precious deep within us. The part of us that is capable of having an attitude of respect comes from what is most sacred in us. So by respecting ourselves, we invite our deeper nature to penetrate toward our surface. We connect with what is deepest in us. That is what we respect and that is what respects us. This mutual connection evokes clarity in the face of uncertainty and peace in our heart.

For this week, please notice the ways in which you do and do not respect yourself. Can you shift toward more self-respect?


     

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