It takes some of us a long time to figure it out, but the simple truth of the matter is that our sense of self worth ultimately comes only from within. No accomplishment and no human being can give it to us.
A perfect example of a person living his life trying to please others is the Tin Man from Frank L. Baum’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.” Early in his life, the Tin Man was smitten by a beautiful Munchkin girl that he hoped to marry. He figured that, if he could acquire enough outer trappings in life, he would eventually win her love. And so he begins to acquire what he thinks he needs to make himself desirable.
While he works at his task, he is cursed by a Wicked Witch, a metaphor for his lack of self worth. As a result of the curse, he accidentally chops off his left leg as he was “chopping away at my best one day…anxious to get the new house and my wife as soon as possible.”
This should have been his warning signal that he was going about things the wrong way, that his values were askew. But he chose to ignore the message.
The same thing may be happening when a person gets a heart attack or an ulcer or some other message from within that life is out of balance. Such an occurrence is a golden opportunity to radically reassess our lifestyle and values. But how many of us get the message the first time around? I certainly did not.
Like the Tin Man, we think our lives can be cured by just making a few minor changes. This is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It never works; indeed, such lateral moves only bring us more suffering.
But the Tin Man doubles down. He starts cutting off more and more of his body parts. Each body part is then replaced by a piece of tin. He is less and less himself, but continues in his futile self destructive path. In a final symbolic gesture of psychological “splitting”‘ he splits himself in two, dramatizing what happens to us when we cut ourselves off from our souls.
There is, however, one body part that even the tinsmith cannot replace: his heart. That, at first, does not seem to overly concern the Tin Man. By now, he says, “I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl, and did not care whether I married her or not.” When feelings are repressed for so long, when we spend a lifetime trying to please others, when are a human doing rather than a human being, then eventually we forget entirely the importance of love.
Now, divorced from feeling, literally a kind of robot, we can fully engage in a life of human achievement. And what a glorious life we fool ourselves into believing that it is! As the Tin Man puts it, “My body shone so brightly in the sun that I felt very proud of it, and it did not matter now if my axe slipped, for it could not cut me.” Our armor is now impermeable!
Our crash back down to earth will, of course, eventually come. For the Tin Man, ironically, it is the tears of heaven, the rain, that rusts him out, paralyzing him in mid swing. It is almost as if God is crying because the Tin Man and all of us like him have forgotten what being a human being is really all about.
The key thing, at this point, is to learn from our lessons. Otherwise, the lessons will keep getting harder and harder. Let the final words be those of the Tin Man: “It was a terrible thing to undergo, but during the year that I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart.”
Next posting: Spiritual, not Psychic
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