I recently, finally, watched The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and was struck by the symbolism of the tormented character of Smeagol and Gollum. Physically, mentally, and spiritually this is a man who gave in once to darkness, became addicted to it, and wasted away, his very identity shattered in a desperate attempt to protect his life.
His outward appearance is of Gollum:
Rotting and unhealthy, obsessed with the one thing he believes is most important to him: A sense of personal power and importance found in his precious ring. As the story unfolds, other characters recognize his true identity as the healthy young man, Smeagol.
They insist on relating to him in that identity. After he grapples initially with self-loathing, he embraces the idea that he can turn from darkness. He walks (literally) in the identity of the cheerful, helpful Smeagol until someone treats him as Gollum and he snaps, opening back up to darkness and oppression.
This was extreme, but it highlighted a universal truth:
All of us are growing, changing, developing constantly. The biggest threat to our growth and development is us. Any number of things may happen around and to us, but we alone choose how those events shape us, how treatment affects us, and especially what defines us.
It’s only when we believe the lie that we aren’t growing, changing and developing in new and wonderful ways that we risk succumbing to something we aren’t.
Maybe your Gollum is a procrastinator, an over-eater, adulterer, or self-sabotager. If you’ve been consistently overcoming that, trust and believe that is your true identity. It won’t be easy, because chances are you’ve been trusting and believing you were Gollum way longer than you should.
The challenge is, because you were acting like and living like Gollum, there will be people who treat you like you haven’t changed. Worse, they may have a terrible moment and tell you so.
It will matter to you.
It will get under your skin because in this new identity, you are still purging self-doubt and fear… So for an instant, you might wonder whether they’re telling the truth. They aren’t.
Here are the five steps you take to deal with self-doubt:
1) Remind yourself that no man or woman alive is truly qualified to pass judgment on your identity, and the one true judge is the definition of endless, pure and unconditional love who thinks you’re more awesome than you could ever believe.
2) Affirm yourself by saying you are your new identity, listing the qualities of that identity, and displaying those qualities.
3) Forgive the person who judged you, and pray for them to forgive themselves, and to find true love, peace, clarity and discernment.
4) Forgive yourself for doubting you.
5) Peacefully and lovingly allow space to come between the two of you. This is important, because when someone condemns or judges you, your relationship is a lie. No different than if you were to put on a mask and talk through a speech modifier: They don’t know you, but have convinced themselves you’re something you aren’t. How can you relate to someone who believes their version of reality supersedes all else?
Judgment is nothing more than a filter of negative experience and expectation that jumbles thought, behavior and speech. When we live free of expectation and full of forgiveness, judgment in ourselves and others becomes intolerable, and that’s a great thing.
Because instead of entering the sticky web of judgment, we see reminders to pray for one another, to uplift one another, to improve ourselves and those around us.