Spiritual ego is real, so be very mindful not to fall into the trap of being a spiritual dick. I know from my own personal journey that it can be a dangerous trap; a sure path to the dark side. If we consider for a moment that for any one thing to exist so must it’s opposite, we are forced to admit that even the most “light” things in the world must have a shadow side. This especially rings true for spirituality.
By no means do I wish to sit here and define what spirituality is or is not or what it should look like for anyone else. All I have is my own experiences, which have led me to this point of current understanding in my life. This is the place that I will now attempt to share from in order to encourage reflection and/or discussion amongst other humans walking this path of life alongside me.
“Real wisdom is the ability to understand the incredible extent to which you bullshit yourself every single moment of every day.” ~Brad Warner
We are the only ones who can honestly access where we are at any given moment because only we have the insight into why we do what we do. That’s what I ask of you as you ponder these behaviors—to turn within and see where these may or may not have shown up in your life.
Above all remember that I write from experience, which means that these have shown up at one time or another for me, so there is no judgment here.
Here are 5 displays of spiritual ego as I have come to know:
- Using spirituality as a justification for our failure to take action in life, or as a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.
I have definitely caught myself using this when I was in fact paralyzed with fear. See, it’s very easy to twist spiritual beliefs and/or mantras into a justification for being irresponsible, lazy, fearful, or flaky. We hear things like, “All happens in divine time,” or “It is what it is,” “Trust in the universe,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” While these ideas do have their place in practice, they can get easily misused. Spiritual growth is about stepping outside of our limited bubble of self, and part of that manifests as being reliable and accountable, i.e. sacrificing in order to show up for others. Using a “go with the flow” spiritual persona to hide your inability to commit to anything does more harm then good.
Also beware of the trap of putting others in the box of “they are where they are” as a means to dismiss something they may be pointing out about your behavior. True spiritual growth comes when we take responsibility for our sh*tty behavior or honest mistake, and then take steps to make it right. And please, if we are living on the expense of others because we believe it’s not spiritual to work a job that doesn’t align with our spiritual path, we are fooling ourselves into thinking we are evolving. This is just utter refusal to take responsibility.
- Avoid or suppress anger or other negative emotions due to the belief that they aren’t “spiritual.”
Ok….the amount of times someone has said to me, “Aren’t you a yogi? Don’t you meditate all the time? Why are you angry?” absolutely drives me crazy. This false perception is so harmful to all of us. The practice of yoga and meditation gets us more in touch with our emotions, it doesn’t turn us into robots who have no feelings or human responses. I actually feel my anger more now that my practice is so disciplined. The difference is that I don’t act like an angry jerk just because I feel it. Suppression is never good, but is especially counterproductive to spiritual growth. End of story.
- Refusal to acknowledge the negative in an attempt to remain “spiritual.”
Again, everything has an opposite and a dark side. Positivity couldn’t exist without negativity. We cannot have one opposite end of a spectrum without the other. One of the most harmful things we can do is tell people to “be positive” when they feel as though the walls are caving in on them. However, this is a very gray area topic because, while the power of positive thinking is a very real thing, we must be careful not to use it to avoid facing the negative things that make us uncomfortable.
If we are in a constant positivity bubble this is a sure sign we are in spiritual delusion and not growing outside our comfort zone. We need to realize that we can acknowledge the “negative” aspects of life—pain, suffering, struggle, chaos, whatever—without becoming negative. We can process through and talk about these things with a positive outlook. And if we need to yell, scream, cry, or meltdown, do it! Telling another (or ourself) to look on the bright side to avoid talking about something that makes us uncomfortable is bullsh*t and far from a spiritual practice. This is the human existence. It’s meant to be messy.
- Taking part in practices, events, lifestyle changes, etc as a way to feel superior to other people.
I laugh at this because it has a special place in my heart and it’s so prevalent in the world today. I have a massive ego and it was dominant through my 20’s when I started doing yoga. Thus I used to see myself as superior because I was into yoga even though I was totally missing the point of it in the beginning. I wasn’t practicing to intentionally feel superior, but I came to see that I would use it as a means to feel superior about myself inwardly. I just didn’t know any better at the time and my ego had me stuck in the perpetual “better than, less than” comparison dance. I didn’t know how to be equal.
Therefore if we find ourselves telling people about what we practice as a means to keep ourselves in that loop of ego, it’s best we keep quiet and practice humility instead. Only we can know what our motives behind anything we do are and it can never hurt to assess why we are doing something. If ego is present we can admit it and practice to be more humble. The lessons will come if we remain open to them.
- Refusal to embrace or even acknowledge the shadow self.
Our shadows will always exist. No amount of spirituality is going to erase this part of us. All we can do is work to integrate it and grow towards being someone who is not a prisoner to those less than favorable aspects of ourselves. Refusal to acknowledge the shadow creates a disconnect and a cognitive dissonance that results in excessively high standards and little ability for self-forgiveness.
It’s practically impossible to live through this experience of adult human life without committing a few errors and behavioral fouls, if only minor ones. Over the course of life we will all make major mistakes. It’s inevitable. It happens to all of us, and it’s okay. Forgive yourself. All we can do is learn from our errors and strive to do better in the future. That’s where we really grow.
My purpose in writing this article is not to offend or point fingers, but I guess if you’re feeling a bit ruffled here there’s a reason for it.
My purpose is rather to inspire open awareness and dialogue about these tendencies so we can learn to laugh at our silliness, thus freeing ourselves from the trap of the spiritual ego.
More than anything, humility is a sign of spiritual growth so let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously. If you want to practice not taking yourself so seriously, or you feel like you’re trapped in the habit of being a spiritual a$$hole, then come join the Hug Your Chaos facebook community where we will laugh at you until you learn to laugh at yourself.
If nothing else, when you learn to Hug Your Chaos, people stop being able to trigger you because when you know and accept yourself for where you are at any given moment, it doesn’t matter what other people say. The only time it bothers us when someone makes a judgement on us is when we are secretly afraid it might be true….
Food for thought!
Author: Lindsay Carricarte-Jones
Image: Uplift Connect