Daily Fenelon > The Mask of the Self-Nature

The Mask of the Self-Nature

Selfishly loving yourself shuts the spirit. You put yourself in a straitjacket when you are enclosed in self. When you come out of that prison, you experience how immense God is, and how He sets His children free.
I rejoice that God has reduced you to weakness. You will not be convinced of or delivered from your self-love by any other means. Self-love finds hidden strength and secret hiding places because of your natural strength and ingenuity for survival. You cannot see your selfishness. Selfishness feeds on the subtle poison of an apparent generosity in always sacrificing for others. God will force your old nature to cry out loud and come out in the open. See how jealous you really are?
Weakness is very painful, but also very useful. While any self-love remains, you are afraid that it will be discovered. As long as the least bit of self-love remains in the secret parts of your heart. God will hunt it down, and, by some infinitely merciful blow, force your selfishness and jealousy out of hiding. The poison then becomes the cure. Self-love, exposed to the light, sees itself in horror. The flattering lifelong illusions you have held of yourself are forced to die. God lets you see who you really worship: yourself. You cannot help but see yourself. And you can no longer hide your true self from others, either.
So to strip self-love of its mask is the most humiliating punishment that can be inflicted. You see that you are no longer as wise, patient, polite, self-possessed, and courageous in sacrificing yourself for others as you had imagined. You are no longer fed by the belief that you need nothing. You no longer think that your "greatness" and "generosity" deserve a better name than "self-love." Now you see your selfishness like that of a silly child, screaming at the loss of an apple. But you are further tormented because you also weep in rage that you have cried at all!
Nothing can comfort you because your poisonous character has been discovered. You see all your foolish rudeness and condescension. Look at your own frightening reflection. Say with Job, "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me." (Job 3:25) Good! What your old nature fears the most is necessary for its destruction.
God doesn't need to attack that which is already dead. It is only the living that must die. What you need is to be convinced of your over-sensitivity. All you have to do is to be quietly willing to see yourself as you are. The minute you do, you will begin to change.
You ask for a cure to get well. You do not need to be cured but killed. Do not look for a remedy; let death come. Be careful, however, that you do not courageously decide to let yourself find no remedy. This can be a remedy in disguise, and even this can give aid and comfort to the self-life. Seek no comfort for self-love, and do not hide your disease. Let everything be simply seen, and then allow yourself to die.
This death is not to be accomplished by any of your own strength. Weakness is the only thing you should possess. All strength is out of place. It only makes the agony longer and harder. If you die from exhaustion, you will die more quickly and less violently.
Dying is necessarily painful. Stimulants are a cruelty to those being tortured. They do not want more strength—they long only for the fatal blow. If it were possible to aid the one being tortured by weakening him and hastening his death, his suffering would be shortened. But he can do nothing. The hand that tied him to his torture rack is the only one that can finish him off.
Do not ask for cures or strength or even death. To ask for death is impatience. To ask for food or remedies is to prolong your agony. What shall you do then? Seek nothing. Hold to nothing. Confess everything, but not to gain comfort, but to gain humility and a desire to yield.
Look to me not as a means of life, but as a means of death. An instrument of life would not serve its purpose if it did not minister life. An instrument of death would be falsely named if it kept people alive rather than killing them. Let me be, or at least seem to be, hard, unfeeling, indifferent, without pity, annoyed, and scornful. God knows how far it is from the truth, but He permits it all to appear this way. I shall be of much more use to you by this false and imaginary character than through my affection and real assistance. The point is not to know how you are to be kept alive, but how you are to lose everything and die.