Shadow. We all have one. It’s the persona (“stage mask” in Greek) we apply to ourselves unconsciously. Richard Rohr says it this way, “Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see.”
A shadow is basically everything we don’t know about ourselves.
Here is what we know:
- We all have one.
Our shadow has a purpose in the early part of our life. It can protect us from the hurt of others. It can even push us past our insecurities with a kind of “fake it ’til you make it.” But if it is nurtured and grown, it can take us away from who we truly are. Without working to get back to our true self, we may become someone we weren’t meant to be.
2. A well-constructed shadow is hard to lose.
When we live our life feeding and nurturing the shadow, it gets so much harder to detach. The reasons we built it in the first place may be long past, but we are blind to the difference between the false and true self. It takes a bit of maturity even to recognize that there is a shadow. The shadow lives in our blind spots. For example, if you continually feel like you are getting the raw end of a deal, that’s probably your shadow talking. Or maybe you keep falling for the wrong type of person? It could be that your shadow self won’t let you believe you deserve better.
3. It is hurting us more than we know.
The blind spots in our lives and personalities keep us from experiencing life to it’s fullest. We get stuck with the same patterns of thought and behavior. We steer clear of new experiences because, “That’s not who I am,” or “I could never be like that.”
Our blind spots can repel others. They can keep us insulated from anyone who is different than we are and sets us up in a self-righteousness that exalts our shadow over the truth. We live our lives projecting our own shadow on others.
4. To get rid of the shadow, we come into the Light.
There is only one way to take off the mask of the false self. We must bring our whole being into the light of Jesus. When Jesus shines his perfect love on us, we begin to realize how selfish and blind we had been. With the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can question why we held on to limiting and flat-out-wrong beliefs.
The process of bringing light into the shadow is called shadow work or shadowboxing. With the Lord’s help, we can see ourselves with compassion. Self-judgment is of no use here. The shadow is neither good nor bad, but merely not true to who we really are.
In Psalm 5, we can see David doing a bit of shadow work. He prays,
I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit.
So come into the hidden places of my heart
and teach me wisdom. (Psalm 51:6, TPT)
Take these promises into the ring as you start your shadowboxing.
- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps. 119:105
- The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
- When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Luke 11:34-35
If we are to become mature, must do the work to bring Christ’s light to the shadow.
Carl Jung, the 20th-century Swiss psychiatrist said, “Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior.” I believe he was on to something there. The path of our heart must be uncovered. This is not a task for the faint of heart. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can begin. He will show us what needs to come into the light.
1 John 1:5, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.”
Come fully into the light, Pilgrim, and let the shadows fall away. It is a path of the heart that leads to freedom!