Men, we all have a shadow side to our personality. Our shadow is what we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves. There are disowned aspects that we simply reject and sent into an inner exile, as we try to manufacture an image of self that is acceptable to ourselves and others. We need to be compassionate with the shadow side that is lurking inside each of us. Rather than denying our shadow we need to be hospitable, welcoming it into the light of consciousness
Richard Rohr refers to this process of welcoming as “Shadowboxing” “It is our attempt to face, awaken and transform the self that we have denied or disguised.” He refers to Jesus words in Matt 5:12-15 , “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.” (Message). The old enemy is “a description of what we allow our inner story lines to do to us.” We create stories of blame, anger and hurt toward ourselves and others. We need to befriend this old enemy or we will be jailed, that is, emotional entrapped within. The result will be a shadow lurking within, that manifests itself in unexpected, harmful ways.
Shadowboxing is not an easy practice, but necessary, if we are to be authentic persons. It means we have to face our inner contradictions and inconsistencies, while embracing our mistakes and failures. Its humbling work, as we patiently learn to grieve, and repent of all that we have buried. Finally seeing our shadow and its tactics begins to free us from its power to influence us. There is less to be anxious about, because there is less fear of exposure to self and others. We will find that we are more relaxed,while being more authentic, and open to the story of others. Why? We have less to hide. We are not worried about what others will discern regarding our character and actions. We will be free to accept others for who there are.
Here are a few tips as you learn to shadowbox. First, don’t be afraid of the light. “But if we walk in the light , as he is in to light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from our sins.” (I John 1:7) The light of the gospel is greater than the darkness within. Living in the light of Jesus’ love, helps you to befriend aspect of yourself that have been sent into exile. Secondly, accept who you are as created uniquely in God’s image, even as a “ruined soul” (Willard). Make friends with your dark side, which produces guilt and shame, along with sadness and anger. Thirdly, take your darkness to the cross. Surrender it to Jesus. See it going into his body, so that you might be healed. Fourthly, realize that your shadow self will humble you. It will make you more dependent on the grace and mercy of God. Finally, find a “truth teller,” someone who you can be honest with when it comes to the inconsistencies and distortions of your inner life. We all need to have someone help us to be objective about our “fallen condition.”