Shadow Boxing: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Thomas Merton once wrote: “Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.” Based on our actions and aspirations, all of us have a self which can’t truly exist. Our false and private self wants to follow our own rules and it wants to live outside of God’s will for us. The problem arises in that we can never find real peace and happiness unless we discover our real self. If we do, we will also find God. Until then, we are simply shadow boxing. Please read more….

Fr. Thomas Merton was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century. He put forth the notion that most of us often think of ourselves as finished products. This is short-sighted thinking he said. He went on to write: “The “I” is not a finished product, something left over from God’s creative activity; rather it is the very process of God’s creative action.”

Life is a process. Our past is part of who we are, but it is not “who we are.” Our past does not define us. Our future is yet unwritten. We have not yet become us. We are always in the process of becoming us. Who will we turn out to be?

German theologian Johannes Mets, in his book Poverty of Spirit, wrote: “Becoming a human being involves more than conception and birth. It is a mandate and a mission, a command and a decision.” He wrote about the fact that we are challenged from the depth of our spirit to BE who we were made to BE.  Borrowing a phrase from William Shakespeare: “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” BEING is a summons. It is a challenge. We have the free will to become the person God intended for us to be, but we also have the free will to pursue trying to become our shadow.

The relentless pursuit of becoming our real self is critically important to us. St. Augustine told us that in order to know God, we must know ourselves. Therefore as we strive to become the person God created us to be, we, in that process, will discover God as well. He also wrote: “You made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” We will remain restless and ill at ease until we become our real self.

As I stated in last week’s 4th Day Letter, God loves us as we are, with an absolute unconditional love. Merton wrote: “The secret of our identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.” Far too often we get weighed down by deep hurts, habitual sinfulness, addictions, anger, resentments, and other wounds this world inflicts on us. We must never lose sight of the reality that our self-worth is imbedded in God’s unconditional love for us. When we have a healthy self-worth, we will find happiness and we will feel close to God.

Satan tries to exploit our mistakes in life with shame. When this happens we try to hide our real brokenness from God by figuratively hiding our nakedness with a fig leaf. This doesn’t work. God knows us as we are, the good and the bad.

I find it interesting that there are two commandments regarding coveting. Those commandments point out that we should not covet others or the things others have. Sadly, too many people spend their life wishing they either were someone else or that that had the success and power and wealth that someone has. This just causes anxiety. We are uniquely us. We will never have the opportunity to be someone else. Therefore, we need to be ourselves and love ourselves.

MARK 12:30-31 tells us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” As Christians, we need to love what God loves…..AND HE LOVES US!

We are called to loves others as we love ourselves. This first begs the question: do we love ourselves? We are flawed, sinful and imperfect people, yet God loves us. So why do we sometimes look upon ourselves, see only our flaws, and have contempt for ourselves? If we do this, we will likely see the flaws in others and have contempt for them too. If we stop to realize God loves us even with all of our foibles, maybe we can love others with all of theirs. In doing this, we bring God to others and find joy for ourselves. In John 15:12, Jesus tells us: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves, will we become who God destined us to be? Self-acceptance is key. We can’t be someone else, and no one else can be us. God has a purpose for our life. Will we fulfill it or will spend our life shadow boxing with our false-self?

Heavenly Father, help me to become the me you intended me to be. Amen!

As always, I love to read your comments below as well as hear from you personally by clicking here.

Brian Pusateri
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  1. Bob Davis on May 17, 2018 at 2:41 pm


    I really enjoyed your reflection today on a Shadow Boxing. I never thought of it that way. But it makes perfect sense that we need to punch down the darker sides of ourselves until only the light of God remains. I literature I would point to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Peter Pan and his shadow as examples of what happens when our shadow selves are out of control.

    On a side note, I passed along the email containing your reflection called “My Bad” to several people a few weeks ago. One friend had shared it, giving you credit, in a prison ministry session with about 30 incarcerated men. (I hope that’s alright). It was well received and started a good discussion. Thanks for the good ripples you make. You never know how far or who they’ll reach!

    God Bless!

    • Brian Pusateri on May 17, 2018 at 2:57 pm


      Thank for writing. I am delighted to know that the 4th Day Letter has a ripple effect. I am delighted to know it helped the prisoners. God blessings to you.


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