Duplicity behind stained glass: Childlike "self-knowledge" and the role of community

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    The recent revelation of Jean Vanier (1928–2019) and historical cases of sexual manipulation and abuse of six women workers at L’Arche (Trosly-Breuil, France, 1970–2005) is a reminder of our human fragility. This article explores the question of how we, as people working in religion, can seek greater integration so as to avoid, as far as possible, the self-deception and duplicity that can lead to profound harm of others. Through engaging with two theologians—Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) and George MacDonald (1824–1905)—we gain insights concerning discernment of our blind spots, plus wisdom regarding ways to safeguard ourselves from duplicity. Teresa reminds us of the need to continually develop authentic “self-knowledge,” and the importance of a courageous, discerning community—both a perceptive spiritual director and honest peers who are willing to challenge leaders and speak up. MacDonald highlights the need for spiritual discernment and a “childlike” posture (rather than self-elevation to a revered “guru” status), to help us live more integrated, genuine lives. Both dialogue partners are explicitly Christocentric and emphasize the ongoing work of the Spirit, opening our eyes and ears to the reality of who we truly are, and the importance of imitating and being “in Christ,” in order to be freed from self-obsession, duplicity, and self-deception.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number3
    Pages (from-to)106-122
    Number of pages17
    JournalTheology Today
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 09 Jul 2021


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