Every man, woman, and child has a secret place within them where they store their treasures. You can call this heart or soul or whatever you want. It is the core of who we are, the thing that makes us unique and valuable.
By the time an emotion gets to our brain, a word to our mouth, or an action in the context of human community, it has passed from this secret chamber (its place of origin) through a series of tests and filters.
The result is we very rarely communicate what really matters to us. We communicate a safe, truncated version. One less likely to be rejected. Something less raw, less real. We get frustrated at others when they don’t understand our motives, what we are really trying to say.
How do we bust through the filters and say what really matters to us?
Navigating The Filters
One important step is to understand what filters we have in place and why. We often call this self-awareness. Our filters are so good, so strong, so practiced. Often, our secret core is kept secret even from ourselves. We are masters at self-deception.
Why do we do this? It is easier, safer, more comfortable.
The most prevalent form of idolatry is our desire to control. We want to control the narrative, the perceptions of others, the outcomes. We want to shrink the world into something we can manage. And in (attempting) to doing so, we play to what we think others want, we adjust ourselves to fit in, to be safe. We change what we value to match what we see valued by others. Our secret place is so raw, so real. It feels so vulnerable, so exposed.
And so, we develop defense mechanisms, styles of humor, blame techniques, etc. to try to soften the exposure to our truest values. To present them carefully.
Naming the Values
Understanding our filters is not the true test of self-awareness. If we stop there, we will not be free of our filters, we will simply change or adapt them. We’ll jump from one shackle to another, thinking we are free because of the empty chain nearby. A new addiction is still an addiction. A new defense mechanism is still serving the same purpose.
What we really need is to dive into the core of who we are. We need to name, explicitly, what really matters to us. Only then can we communicate it to others.
I love it when people say to me, “I really value balance, so I need to say no to this because I’ve said yes to a lot of things lately” or “I really value excellence, so I need to take my time to do this task well”.
We’ve got to get at the truth of who we are. No matter how deep and effective our filters are, they will never erase the core value of our identity. They can negate and cover it, but it will always be down there, pulsing in our veins, begging to come out.
We are frustrated and angry because people are not seeing the truth of who we are. Even though we ourselves are not seeing it. After all, people see what we communicate. In a certain, superficial sense, we are what we communicate because it is the self we are presenting to the world, the self we are acting on. Truly victorious living is when our communicated self matches the values of our core identity.