If everyone agreed on what is good, bad, right, and wrong, what would be left to argue about? And if there is a universal truth, why is it so challenging to reach a consensus on what that is?
I hope this piece will offer insight into how to discern THE truth and avoid the pitfalls and twisted mental gymnastics of the ego that’s leading humanity toward a potentially hazardous outcome. To avoid this calamity, it is crucial that we put self-importance aside and learn to recognize and overcome the factors that are hindering us from achieving balance and harmony.
What is discernment, and how is it different from ego-centric judgment?
Discernment, like many things, can be applied to various contexts and depths of understanding. Generally, we refer to it as the ability to recognize, select, comprehend, and make sound judgments. Yet, there exists a more profound level of discernment that anyone can access, but few of us will put in the effort to cultivate the discipline necessary to perceive it. This level of discernment requires us to completely set aside indoctrinated beliefs and self-importance, which includes our personal opinions, judgments, concerns, and interpretations, and instead tap into our higher self—the essence of ourselves that is fearless, humble, loving, patient, and consciously connected to all that is.
The difficulty with possessing wise discernment:
Conditioned to conform:
As humans, we are born into families and cultures where we inherit a set of beliefs that can vary from neutral to extreme. These beliefs impact how we interpret information and create a narrative about the world we live in. Sadly, society continues to model that we should be proud and convicted in “our” beliefs—the beliefs that predominately came from indoctrination, which we soon forget. As a result, we remain unaware of the untainted truth that exists within each of our essences and instead find ourselves defending ideologies that we have little more than a superficial attachment to.
So, what is this essence within all of us that holds the truth? Our true self, also referred to as our spirit or higher self, holds an inner knowing that’s founded on love, balance, and unity. Contrary to traditional schooling, where we’re encouraged and praised for seeking out, collecting, and defending prescribed concepts and laws, our inner wisdom needs no books or lectures to understand truth and reality.
Unfortunately, this sourcing of truth through introspection seems absurd or foolish to many because it goes against everything we’ve been taught about learning and reality. And to be fair, it is a very slippery and dangerous slope, which leads to the next challenge of discerning where our discernment is coming from—our ego or true self.
The Problematic Ego and Discernment
I don’t think any of us enjoy being wrong. Admitting when we are can sting or be outright painful, which is why those who are humble enough to admit when they are wrong, without debate or defeat, are so admired by others. The discomfort we feel is nothing more than a wounded ego.
Yes, we all have one. And no one’s ego is any bigger than another’s. What we call a “big ego” is an ego that has been allowed to take charge of one’s life without restrictions or management—much like an unruly child. We are our ego’s parents, and we are also the ego itself. Think of it as ½ of our being. The ego quickly integrates itself into the totality of our life by convincing us that we are it and it is us, through and through. But what is it exactly?
The ego is our humanness, essentially. Our doubts, fears, concerns, instincts, self-image, biases, assumptions, self-talk, persona, etc., are a product of our ego. When we reminisce or dwell on the past and think, anticipate, or worry about the future, that is our ego.
Our ego encourages us to win, concur, prove, and defend. Its aim is to be right, in control, feel pleasure, and avoid discomfort. It’s the part of us that separates us from the rest of the world and puts our desires and comforts above all else.
Currently, our egos are running the world, and practically every single one of us on this planet. The unfortunate thing is that our egos will refuse to accept that we are one of the suckers under its control. It will say, “I agree with you, but not me. I am aware and in control of my decisions. My concerns are valid. My grievances are justified. And what issues I do have are a result of …., and out of my control.”
What we all need to realize and accept is that we were born and raised in a society that intentionally strengthens the ego and prunes or dismisses our true nature, which gives us strength and allows for harmonious autonomy. How we were raised (oblivious of this truth) is not our fault. While it’s not our fault for not knowing what we don’t know, when we do become aware, it becomes our responsibility to rediscover our true selves so we can discern truth and see reality through a new lens.
Before we can discern truth, we have to be able to discern the power of our ego in our lives. Here are a few signs that will help you to discern your ego from your true self:
Problem-focused. Focuses on blame and complains. Pessimistic in nature.
Solution-focused. Doesn’t blame or complain. Optimistic in nature.
Seeks to have the answer to everything. Rarely, if ever, admits to being wrong, ignorant, or arrogant.
Is aware of its ignorance and would rather learn or hear the perspective of others to acquire more insight than commit to an absolute answer.
Seeks praise, acceptance, respect, and admiration from others. Enjoys touting itself as an expert or guru.
Does not seek the approval of others yet carries respect and acceptance for all. Does not flaunt around as an expert but is aware and humbled by all that it does not know.
Is in constant judgment and feels worthy of assessing the worth of others.
Accepts that it is flawed and worthy and sees this same paradox in others.
Establishes expectations and rules of how the world should be and things should operate, becoming upset or uneasy when things or people fail to meet those expectations.
Is aware and accepting of the uncertainty of the world, and instead of controlling the external forces, it aims to control its response and interaction to that which is, always in a state of flow and recalibration.
Seeks quick fixes and resolutions that allow it to escape discomfort and not necessarily solve the root of the problem, which takes time, energy, discipline, and often discomfort in the early stages.
Seeks to solve the root of an issue and is willing to face any and all obstacles as it sees them as opportunities to develop resilience, wisdom, and appreciation for the absence of pain and chaos.
Sees its life, needs, and desires being more important than anyone else.
(I.e., those who hoarded toilet paper, food, and gas during COVID)
Does not hoard resources or reserve aid or services for its self-preservation but has faith in the abundance of resources and acts to self-sustain without taking from others.
As you can see, we have A LOT of work to do. And until we can live predominantly from our true nature, or at the very least, be able to recognize our ego from our true self, we will not be able to discern THE truth or access inner wisdom.