When I was 22, I lived in downtown Philadelphia for a short time. Passing by the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin, I was amused by the plaque bearing the epitaph he wrote for himself at 22, which begins:
The Body of B. Franklin, Printer,
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And Stript of its Lettering & Gilding,
Lies here. Food for Worms.
Ever since, I’ve pondered what I’d like my own epitaph to be.
The other day, I saw an announcement for an upcoming spiritual retreat being led by a Senior Pathwork Helper. ‘Is that what I aspire to be?’ I asked myself. ‘Senior?’ What does being senior even mean? Time, in my opinion, is not a tide that raises all ships. In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”
Perhaps Ben said it best in another of his quotes, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Speaking for myself, I am definitely not done yet. I am still changing and hope this continues for a very long while.
In the meantime, I am doing my best to be good at whatever I do. I am in fact good at helping others, and I am good at doing my own work and discovering the truth of who I am. If I had a modifier on my title, I think I’d like to be called a Good Pathwork Helper.
As for my epitaph, how about this: She was good.
We all come into this world with three portions of faults on our plates. They are fear, self-will and pride. They’re like a perpetual vegetable medley of peas, carrots and corn. So if you find a pea, start searching for the other two. All three are always served at once.
Fear reflects our innate desire to avoid being hurt. Self-will is an inner forcing current—as well as a deep-seated resistance to life—caused by our lack of faith in God’s will and our unwillingness to let go and trust.
And then there is pride, which is our effort to always come out on top, proving to the world that we matter as a cover for our unconscious belief that we don’t. To hold ourselves in a state of healthy pride, we must deeply know that we are worthy, that we are good.
Pride is connected with shame, but they are apples and oranges, if you will. For while pride is a primary fault, making it worthy of our lifelong attention, shame is the feeling that I am bad. ‘I am so bad,’ says shame, ‘I must hide this truth of who I am.’ It’s a tactic used by our Lower Self to keep us cowering in the corner and recoiling from being seen.
Shame blankets us in apathy so we won’t face our faults and work to unwind them. This leads to a lack of self-respect, causing us to demand respect from others in order to make up for the gap. That never works, of course, spiraling us further into feelings of despair and utter hopelessness.
The Guide teaches us that every fault holds an original essence of light, and shame is no different. The right kind of shame, then, is to feel true repentance, which fuels our desire for self-development. This is our impetus for walking a spiritual path.
We need to see ourselves in our present reality, so we can see where we have work to do. But if we lack the humility to face ourselves as we are in this moment, it won’t be possible to see where and how to change ourselves for the better. Shame, then, stemming from our pride, is what pushes us to escape our present reality.
Shame is a convincing feeling, but that doesn’t make it true. We are not inherently bad. Rather, we all carry faults that we are here to work on. They’re what underlie every unhappiness and untruth we harbor. So any time we’re willing to face our Lower-Self faults of fear, self-will and pride, that’s a good thing.
The best news is this: When we take the risk to be honest with ourselves and others about our shortcomings, we will find that the cloak of shame lifts off. Then we can face what needs facing, without desiring to appear better than we currently are.
Ben Franklin’s self-written epitaph concludes with:
But the Work shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believ’d
appear once more
In a new & more elegant Edition
Corrected and improved
By the Author.
In the end, if our growth is built on a true and firm foundation, one day we will truly all get better: corrected and improved, as it were. Then the truth of who we are—indeed, the truth of our own goodness—will shine through.
Bones, Chapter 12: Finding Out the Truth about Ourselves, Including Our Faults
Bones, Chapter 13: The Ubiquitous Faults of Self-Will, Pride and Fear