Thoughts about Self as Context for Christian clients - submitted by Margaret Heriot

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This is a way I have learned to help Christian clients understand and experience the self as context. It helps explain the difference between evaluations of self and self.
When we were an infant, we had no words for what we experienced. The floor we crawled on was something our hands and knees experienced moment by moment. As we developed language we were able to talk about things that were not being experienced in the moment. This ability was helpful but also caused some problems for us. Not only did we learn words like “floor” and “cookie” we learned words like “pretty” “nice”, “bad” and “good”. When these evaluative words were applied to us by caregivers, they caused us to form idea that we held these things inside us, part of us. We get confused about “who we really are”.
Let’s see if we can figure out this question of who we really are. One way we can experience this self is to remember experiences we have had throughout our lives and notice who was experiencing these events. Remember different actions you have taken, things you have decided, and notice who was willing those actions and making those decisions. This self was free at any moment to make a different action than the one chosen to make. These actions can be evaluated by others and ourselves as helpful, kind, unkind, honest, illegal, etc. But the one doing the actions is none of these things. The self is the place where the will to do the actions resides, not the actions, or the evaluation of the actions, resides.
One way to help us comprehend this fact about the self is to remember what the Bible says about us. God’s love for us is unconditional, it is not dependent on anything we do. We can never do enough good things to earn his love, and he loves us while we are doing things which are displeasing to Him. Jesus offers us eternal life with God not based on our behavior, but on the fact that he loves us so much he will die for us. So God says there is a self which is loveable and is not the same as our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This means there is a profound equality between every human being, and it is meaningless to construct a scale of goodness and badness to measure other people or ourselves.