Freedom Means Crucifying Our Ego

There is a war going on inside each one of us daily. We struggle with a deep yearning for power, control, honor, and praise. All of which we falsely believe will bring us comfort, love, and peace. Without consciously knowing it, we constantly seek to satiate these aspects of our egos in large and small ways. This battle leads us to spend our days trapped in cycles of fear.

We all do it. It is a part of our fallen nature. This is precisely why Our Lord did battle against these tendencies in the desert when the devil came to tempt him after 40 days of fasting and prayer. We too are called to battle against these temptations, but often we don’t realize to what extent we must put these tendencies to death within ourselves.

We are made for and by love. We profoundly desire to be loved and accepted by the people around us. We look to others for adulation, honor, and praise. We want to be confirmed in everything we do. We start seeking other people’s opinions rather than God’s will. We start to mistake those opinions as God’s opinions. This is to invert what God is asking of us. We are to seek Him and His ways for our lives, not to rely primarily on the opinions of others.

Part of the reason social media has become an addiction for too many people is because it is a world we create based on our own egos. We are able to share any thought we have and put it out for public consumption. Each new “like” is a form of affirmation, perhaps an affirmation we never got growing up, in our careers, or in other relationships with people. We look for others to reinforce what we believe, even if it is wrong or erroneous. We seek that confirmation while failing to turn to God. 

To be a disciple of Christ is to pursue a path that is very different from the rest of the world. In fact, it is a path that is diametrically opposed to our fallen human tendencies. Our fallen nature tells us we need to grasp at power, honor, acceptance, pleasure, and comfort. Christ asks us to accept a Crown of Thorns. To stand before Pilate—worldly power—and accept a condemnation of death. We are called to die-to-self and any desire to be raised up to worldly power at the expense of following Christ.

The danger for all of us in desiring worldly honor, power, comfort, and praise is that we will forsake and condemn Christ and side with Pilate. In fact, we all do this when we sin, especially when we want to go with the crowd rather than stand alone with our Scourged Savior. To seek holiness often is to stand alone. It is to be willing to suffer condemnation, rejection, and betrayal because we choose to be united with Christ instead of the world. There is great spiritual danger in measuring the spiritual life by the crowd.

We are called to seek our honor and worth in Our Heavenly Father. We are His beloved sons and daughters. He is steadfast, merciful, and loving. He does not leave us alone. We can rest in Him because He loves us completely. Human love is imperfect, fleeting, and prone to sin. We tend to seek acceptance in all of the wrong places. The love we are called to and made for has a cost precisely because we must be refined and purged of our ego and over-dependence on the opinions of others.

It is the path laden with the heavy wood of the Cross where God accomplishes this refining in order that we may truly love Him and others as He loves. The Cross is freedom, even though it is simultaneously torturous because through it we die to ourselves and rise with Christ. Our Lord tells us we must follow Him along the Way of the Cross to eternal life. There is no other way. 

This means we are not called to walk the path of acceptance, honor, adulation, and praise. Instead, it is the path of self-abnegation, humility, and often, rejection that truly leads to love. The saints all came to understand this throughout their lives. St. Faustina said: “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.”

To find strength in union with Christ on the Way of the Cross, we have to begin making choices that are deeply painful at first. These choices form habits that can be found in the Litany of Humility. This Litany asks God to re-align our hearts, minds, egos, souls, and bodies to Him alone. The Litany begins:

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, O Jesus.

The Litany goes to the very heart of our desire to be exalted among our fellow men and women. The reason we need to be freed from these desires is because they get in the way of truly loving God and others. We use others and we ignore God. We place ourselves at the center of the universe, which hinders our progress in holiness.

We know this is the case because these tendencies are the reason we spend much of our lives paralyzed by fear. We fear being abandoned, rejected, criticized, and unloved. Our culture has become so fragile because of our ego dominance that we are no longer capable of disagreement. This turns us into tyrants who seek to protect our egos above all else. If someone does not approve of us, confirm us in everything, or praise us, then we get rid of them. We live in a culture that shouts “Crucify Him!” In response to the slightest of provocations.

At the root of all of this is fear. A fear of being cast out and rejected. Deep down we fear not being loved by others. We fear the Cross and crucifixion. It is this fear Our Lord wants to enter into order to free us so He can set our hearts ablaze with His love. A love that frees us from fear because our security and worth is rooted in Him, not the opinions of others.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver us, O Jesus.

Growing in humility and trust means allowing Him to heal us of the fears we fall victim to because of our egos. When we are secure in the love of Christ, we come to see that actual love can bear these sufferings for love of Christ and for the conversion of those who hurts us. We are no longer paralyzed by our tyrannical egos. We rest securely in the love of Christ. We know we are loved, even if our neighbor rejects us.

During this process, we must confront the false belief pervading most of Western Christianity that the Christian life will be one of acceptance and approval by our brothers and sisters in Christ and others; that the crowd will be with us. Even a cursory perusal of the lives of the saints disproves this belief. The closer we follow Christ, the more difficulties we will encounter. A servant is not greater than his Master. Our Master was brutally tortured, abandoned, betrayed, and crucified.

Jesus wants us to be fully united to Him. This means following Him in His betrayals, rejections, abandonments, criticisms, and ultimately, crucifixion. There is a very real chance that if we are not encountering obstacles and we are loved by everyone that we are far from Christ because we have abandoned the Cross in favor of Pilate.

Once we have fought the great battle against our own ego through humility and love of Christ, we come to see that this life is not about receiving worldly honor, power, or praise. It is about rejoicing with others and suffering with others as Christ does. This is the essence of love. We can then joyfully pray the rest of the Litany:

That others may be loved more than I,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Cardinal Merry del Val

This is the path to freedom. With that freedom comes true love and acceptance because we find the source of our joy in Christ and in giving love to others. We no longer grasp at power and honor because of our fear and insecurity. Instead, we seek to give of ourselves even though it means we will be misunderstood, rejected, and betrayed just as Our Lord suffered these same afflictions. Ultimately, union with Christ is all that matters because He is the source of our redemption. Only He can give peace, security, and love, not the opinions or desires of our neighbor. This path is how we find the strength in Christ to even love our enemies. The Way of the Cross is the path of humility.

Photo by Gianna Bonello on Unsplash


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate with an M.A. in Theology with an emphasis in philosophy. Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths.

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