Amazing Possibilities!

  • Matthew Kelly

Character Vs. Ego



The enemy of character is ego. Within each of us there are two selves,

a true self and a false self. The two selves are constantly battling

with each other for supremacy. The true self speaks for character,

and the false self speaks for ego. The authentic self finds its identity

in all things that are good, true, beautiful, and noble, while the

ego is constantly making demands based on insecurity and self-aggrandizement.

Character is the emergence of the true self, while

ego is the ugly head of the false self. Character is the ambassador of

the higher self, while ego represents the lower self.


Which self will you choose? The higher self or the lower self?

The authentic self or the false self? Character or ego? Are you willing

to dismiss the constant demands of the ego and painstakingly build

an identity of character one virtue at a time?

It is this conflict between the higher self and the lower self,

between character and ego, which surrounds the whole human

drama. All great music, movies, and stories are centered on this

struggle. Within people and between people, within nations and

between nations, the battle is between character and ego. All we

are ever witnessing in human relations is this struggle between the

higher self and the lower self. Character and ego are constantly vying

for dominance within us, and the inner reality seeks an external

expression.


Our egos place us at the center of the universe, and everyone

and everything else is either in place, or out of place, according to

our whims, cravings, fancies, and self-centered desires. When we are

living from an ego-centered perspective, everything happens in relation

to us. Everything we hear and see, we hear and see in relation to

us. When people speak to us, we don’t try to understand what they

are trying to communicate; we filter what they are saying and hear

what they are saying only in relation to what is of interest to us or

how it might affect us. An extreme example might be that someone

close to us gets very sick and we are upset because their illness has

interfered with our plans.


Life never happens as we think it will, and events rarely unfold

exactly as we would like them to, so when we are living from an

ego-centered point of view we are constantly frustrated and disappointed.

Consumed by ego, everyone and everything seem to be always

out of place. But the world of ego is an illusion. The reality is

that everyone and everything is in place, exactly as they should be

in this very moment. We are out of place. By succumbing to the

mental seduction of the ego, we have erroneously placed ourselves

at the center of the universe, where we most certainly do not belong.

Everything may seem out of place, but in fact it is we who are out of

place.


The more we submit to the demands of ego, the larger the ego

grows, and the more control we give to the ego, the more irritable,

restless, and frustrated we become. This is because things will inevitably

not always turn out as we would like them to. There are

so many factors beyond our control, and when we don’t get what

we want, the ego throws a tantrum, just as an undisciplined child

does. This child sees his or her desires as the number-one priority,

and when those desires are not fulfilled the world is wrong and the

universe is out of balance from his or her egotistical point of view.

We all fall into this behavior from time to time. We may be going

to meet someone and the other person is running late. In the grand

scheme of things, it’s nothing, but we can make a huge deal out of it.

We may not even say anything to anyone, but inside we allow it to

grind away. How many men do I know who are always complaining

about how long it takes their wives to get ready? They could just sit

down and relax and read while they are waiting—a few minutes here

or there is not going to make that much of a difference—but they

choose to let it upset them. In these scenarios, and many more, the

real issue is that events are not unfolding exactly as we want them to.


The truth is this: We are not the center of the universe, and

when we try to place ourselves there, we set ourselves up for disappointment

and frustration. The ego is never satisfied, whereas the

authentic self is satisfied simply with embracing this moment as an

opportunity to progress toward the-best-version-of-itself in any way

it can. If waiting patiently will help you become a better person, the

authentic self is satisfied with waiting patiently, but the ego will be

restless. If helping someone else fulfill a dream will help you build a

better relationship with that person, the authentic self wants to celebrate

that, but the ego wants you to always be the center of attention.

The authentic self is genuinely interested in other people, while the

ego is interested only in what other people can do for it.

Character leads to enduring happiness. Living only through the

ego leads to empty and fleeting pleasure. Invest in character, and it

will see you through good times and bad. Invest in ego, and it is like

building a home on quicksand.


Matthew Kelly


From Perfectly Yourself

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