Acceptance, approval, and admiration are dangerous. Like punishment, reward is a part of our conditioning. It is called positive reinforcement. If you do not get any of it, life is miserable. However, if you get it, you can become attached to it to the point of addiction. This addiction induces fear, because once you have something, you fear its loss. Thus, the admirer controls the admired with admiration. The approving boss controls the subordinate with praise. Friends control you with their good opinion of you. Community controls you with its acceptance. Any slight change on their part, or threat of change, will disturb you consciously or subconsciously. Any loss of these conditions will grieve you dearly. We can be enslaved by love without our knowing. We can become dependent on another’s dependence on us.
We need an immune system here, just as we need some inner immunity to brave the storm of rejection, criticism, even condemnation, and, quite often, the Dead Sea of indifference. It is bad if we succumb to life’s beating. It is equally bad if we succumb to life’s bribery. Regardless of beating or bribery, we must dare to be ourselves; we must dare to do what we are meant to do.
An inner core has to be built; otherwise we are subject to corruption. Our daily reality is overwhelming, and our needs are urgent. The interaction is constant. The pressure is always on.
We are social animals, but we are also meant to grow on our own, quietly, in our own lot. Solitude must precede true society, as Emerson said. A complete self is the precondition for any mature relationship on equal terms between adults.
To build that core, that complete self, is no easy task. Much tribulation and conflict has to be endured before we can attain a solid ethical consciousness. Those innocents who have not fought adversities and resisted temptations are not to be trusted. Those who did not choose their inner calling over external pressure are corrupted. The redemption is harder, as now the core is weaker. They easily slip down the slippery slope from there. Only those who have made the courageous choice can take the next, possibly more severe, or more subtle and better disguised, test. In due time, through many trials, the core of a self is built. The danger of falling for even such a self will always exist. It is an uphill struggle. It is worthwhile, but not easy.
Despite our need for social interaction, our longing to be of great service to society, we must not compromise ourselves too much. Since anything outstanding will likely be misunderstood and beaten down, years of isolation may be necessary before we gain mastery.
Therefore, one seeking an authentic, empowered self has no choice but to learn to live with oneself comfortably. Emotionally, we should be as little externally reliant as possible. We need to reacquaint ourselves with nature, with quiet, with great books and classical music, with productive loneliness. Solitariness is necessary for our wounds to heal, our inner turmoil to settle, our thoughts to grow, our boundaries to expand.
No doubt we should reach out to connect with people from all geographic areas, all walks of life, all ages, all colors, all cultures, and all creeds. However, we should not fill our lives with chatter. Our well-done work should be the currency of exchange in any meaningful interaction. It should be the only permit to enter into the circle of great contributors where you belong. True friendship is based on mutual admiration for each other’s character. The proof of our character is our work. The work done verifies not just the talent, but more importantly, the determination, the endurance, and the conquering of many difficulties and temptations.