Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better.
You can find the series in its entirety here.
Precept 28: Trust vs. Temptation
In the Bible, 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” In other words, you are at a high risk of being tempted at any moment, and when you round just about every corner, so you better be careful (read this for tips on that).
But although it is indeed true that Satan is always on the prowl, and would very much like to own your soul, I think that some folks, especially many Christians, unnecessarily worry themselves into a constant emotive state of fear and anxiety because—you know—evil, temptation, fears, sin, and death are oozing out of every hole and dripping out of every corner of their environment, like some kind of an old Frank Peretti novel (one of my favorite authors growing up, by the way) in which there are demons perched just about everywhere.
That's just not a very peaceful and pleasant way to live, especially when you consider the fact that a Christian, in particular, has allies: strong allies in the form of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a heavenly host of mighty angels, not to mention, in an ideal situation at least, a like-minded community of fellow believers to pray and support for that person. So ultimately, the knowledge and awareness of constant temptation must be paired with the peace and faith of constant trust. After all, also in the Bible, Peter's friend and fellow apostle says in Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns— and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
So yes, be alert at all times for temptation, but don't worry so much about it that you can't sleep at night, can never relax, have a difficult time trusting anyone, are constantly worrying what's going to go wrong next, or see a demon flying out of every corner. Trust God.
See what I mean? Expect evil, but trust God. It's OK to relax, to let go, and to lay on your back staring at the sunshine, smiling and basking in the glow of Creation. The only area in which I would caution you about being fully relaxed, letting go, and letting yourself slip away into peaceful rest without stressfully worrying about temptation would be if you are on drugs, and I talk more about that here.
Precept 29: Don't Kill Your Ego
We hear a lot these days about “killing the ego.” Whether via a hefty dose of plant medicine, a rigorous rite of passage, or an intense vision quest, there's this idea of slipping into a state in which you experience the humbling fact that you aren't in control, that you need to release control, and that life is much more satisfying and meaningful when you try not to control every circumstance but rather lean into, fully experience and savor every circumstance while choosing to be happy in the process.
And look, that's great: we should all learn to set aside control tendencies, set aside pride, and trust God.
But at the same time, we are now living in a society in which having one's “ego on board” is increasingly vilified, and books with titles such as Ego Is The Enemy, The Ego Is Not The Real You, and Kill The Ego! are being published with increasing frequency.
However, think about this: your ego is a gift.
As a human being created in the image of God, you are the only being living on the surface of this planet who can actually have awareness of and control your consciousness; the only animal who can consciously, intelligently, and mindfully create new things; and the only entity with a light spirit inside you (see below) that will go on to live for eternity—a fact you should embrace, be proud about, and, yes, even have a strong sense of ego and ownership about. Don't suppress that. Don't escape that. Don't dissolve that. Don't try to “kill” that. It's part of what makes you oh-so-special and impactful.
See, if you fully kill your ego, you can slip into apathy and laziness, be easily manipulated, and become a human being with no absolute standard of morality, no ikigai, no purpose, and so little pride that you're unable to direct your actions in a fully conscious manner to live out your life's ultimate meaning and purpose.
So rather than trying to kill your ego, instead do this: learn to love. Ego without love is selfishness, hubris, and worship of self. But ego with love is transformative. Ego with service, charity, community, faith, joy, gratitude, and living one's life by the Golden Rule is a healthy and enlightened state of existence.
Here are the ultimate equations:
Ego + Your Own Desires = Selfish, Sinful Tendencies & Narcissism.
Ego Death = Apathy, Indifference & Dispassion.
Ego + Love (Others-Facing, Service, Charity, Community, etc.) = A Meaningful Life.
Precept 30: Light Beings
In his book The Weight Of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Yes, we humans are so much more than the shallow flesh suit we often tend to focus upon. Fact is, our skin, muscles, bones, joints, hair, nails, and sinew only form a weak and temporary shell that encases who we truly are at our core. We are not just flesh beings and we are not just a “meat suit”, especially not permanently. Instead, we are, as Lewis notes, spiritual beings, and the spiritual part of us is what will go on to exist for eternity as an immortal horror or an everlasting splendor.
Each of us has a special spark inside – our soul – that lights up and energizes our entire body. Yet so often, we ignore the beautiful light inside our fellow human beings and focus instead on judging and assessing someone based upon the shallow appearance of their flesh. Fellas—that girl you're talking to at a party? See her as a beautiful and unique light being, an angelic soul with a unique signature spark inside her, and not just as some hot chick you're nervous to talk to. How would such a light being want to be seen, heard, and loved, and how can you recognize that being as an image-bearer of God and as someone far more than just skin, lips, curves, and hair? Ladies—how about that gruff, macho man you just can't seem to get through to or understand? Have you ever viewed that guy instead as a spiritual entity who is far more meaningful, deep, and eternal than just their shoulders, muscles, beard, grunting, and scowling?
Within each of us are slivers of light, packets of particles, and glowing photons. So when I'm talking to or observing someone, especially if I'm tempted to judge that someone based on their outward appearance, I try to imagine a blue, ethereal spark invisible to the naked eye that is surging through that person's head, chest, torso, arms, and legs. I try as hard as I can to see them as a spirit, to look deep into their eyes, and to peer into their soul. So ask yourself: if the eternal spirit is what really, really matters, when you look at someone, do you see flesh or do you see spirit? Do you judge flesh, or do you tune into spirit? Trust me, it's a powerful relational shift when you begin to look upon your fellow human as an eternal soul. Remember: we are not a body with a soul – we are a soul with a body.
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!