Gil Fronsdal

‘There’s a very wounded side of self in this culture. Even among privileged people there’s a lot of self-criticism; there’s a whole industry of self-help books that have to do with an inner critic, and all these people who feel so unsafe and who are demanding safety. There is a way of over-caring for people who are stuck in a certain mindset: rather than pulling the rug out from under them, we put bandages around them and prop them up. The self-esteem movement has turned out to be a disaster. Because people don’t have enough self-esteem, they feel they have to build up self-esteem, and this creates people who are more fragile and who feel they are deserving of being treated in certain ways. So in some Western Dharma teaching, the rhetoric seems to be supporting the existence of an unhealthy sense of self.’ (from The Dewdrop)

This is a subtle point, and something that comes up in conversation with fellow priests. Of course we want to be caring and supportive and for everyone to feel safe, heard, and met, and I do agree that there are times when pulling the rug out – which is the traditional Zen way of breaking the exoskeleton of the ego – might be the most appropriate response.

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