The Shadow Self

HudsonSome time ago, I came across a fine and insightful little book that Scot McKnight recommended entitled Christ-Following: Ten Signposts to Spirituality and written by South African pastor Trevor Hudson.  A few weeks ago, I began reading the book during the early morning hours.  What an enjoyable book!


In a chapter entitled "Acknowledging Our Shadow Selves," Hudson writes about the tendency in many Christian circles to acknowledge only the acceptable selves:  

Within conventional Christian circles there is a widespread tendency to acknowledge only the acceptable selves.  Those considered unacceptable are usually either neglected or rejected.  This way of denial, as we shall see later, has destructive consequences.   Most tragic of all is that large tracts of our inner life are prevented from experiencing God’s transforming friendship.  Conversion can only continue as we acknowledge these shadow selves and expose them to the light of God’s love.  (p. 79)

Hudson suggests that one way to discover this shadow self within ourselves is to look at our "instant reactions."  He suggests that one might reflect on questions such as these:


  • What happens when you are told of another person’s success in your own area of work?  Does the news instantly evoke a response of joy on this person’s behalf or does it produce within you a note of jealousy?
  • What happens when you hear a colleague being praised for his efforts?  Are you able to freely share in this affirmation or do you hear yourself saying something obviously designed to underplay what has been achieved?
  • What happens at a four-way stop when it’s your turn to go, and the driver on your left races across your path with a smirk on his face?  Are you able to let it be, or is your immediate reaction a curse that you would never use in public?  (p. 86)


These questions are by no means an exhaustive list.  They are just a beginning. 


What other questions would you add to these? 

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6 thoughts on “The Shadow Self

  1. What happens when you are eating out in a restaurant and the service is suboptimal?  Do you berate the humiliate the server and reflect your disrespect in the tip that you leave?  Or do you extend to him more gracious treatment, realizing that everyone has a bad day now and then?

  2. Here’s one I’ve come across in my personal life.  Do you extol the virtues of confession, only to confess what has become acceptible sins to others and not much more shameful ones?

  3. Frank– I couldn’t get past your first sentence. 🙂  "Religious professional."  I suspect that there is a truckload of conversation that we could have regarding that one phrase.   It would be interesting to know how many people see themselves as just that, "religious professionals."