"Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your own opinions about yourself."
This statement by Brennan Manning, a Franciscan priest and influential author who died earlier this month, hit me right in the head. My first thought was, How can I ever be free in this sense until I am dead?
My whole interior life has been a combination of self-criticism and worry about the views of others, the fear of being shamed in some way, of not fitting in, and the rest. A great deal of anxiety seems to stem from concern about being judged and found wanting by others, of looking foolish or saying something stupid, of not measuring up to one's own goals.
Yet maybe Father Manning really meant that the letting go of the self leads us away from such worries and fears. Each day can be an opportunity to rise above the opinions we imagine others have of us and become our true selves, ones loved by God just as we are.
Manning also wrote: "Define yourself as one loved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion."