Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence. ~ Henri Nouwen
I think the key phrase in this Nouwen quote is: When we have come to believe in the voices that call us… You can complete that sentence in any number of ways. Few question the destructive impact of criticism but we rarely talk about the destructive power of flattery. Often, others will praise in us, strengths we know we don’t hold; attribute to us virtues that our motives belie.
We all have a litany of language used about us: a cocktail of criticism and praise, never measured in equal portions. We lift the glass and drink in the words that are castigating or lavishly lauding, while knowing the speaker knows little of our heart of hearts, because the heart is a mystery even to its keeper. We assimilate what we hear until the off-handed words of others form the reflection we see as we glance in the mirror.
In truth, when all noise has stopped and we stand in silence, listening only to the Sacred voice, we find that we are, to the core Beloved. Nothing more, nothing less. Just Beloved.