Contrary to popular opinion, continual self-expression leads to depression, stress, and duress. For example, contemporary culture has opened the door to almost unlimited self-expression, yet, rather than producing widespread happiness and fulfillment, we have some of the highest depression and suicide rates in history.
If self is the only thing inside of us, then self-expression is our only option. Like Janet Jackson said: “Self-expression is my goal.” Oscar Wilde went even further and said: “The purpose of life is self-expression.” Our society has bought the idea that full-self expression is healthy and that any self-repression is dangerous. Sigmund Freud expressed that concept like this: “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
However, what if there is something beautiful inside of us that is beyond self? What if we can go beyond the struggles of self and express an inner light that is pure and bright and the source of all that is right? That gives two options instead of one: 1) We can strive to express our self and thus repress the inner light; or 2) We can work to repress our self and thus express the inner light. To express yourself is to trend toward a torrent of self-obsession and the terrible torment of self-oppression. However, steady self-suppression leads to progress in personal peace and success in satisfaction.
John the Baptist put it this way: “I must decrease, He must increase.” Paul of Tarsus said: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing,” and “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus said: “Deny yourself, take up your cross (death to your own feelings and desires), and follow Me.”
When we suppress our self (and repress its desires), Jesus said; “Out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” When we let self flow from within us, we experience unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and even misery; however when we shut down self and allow God’s Spirit to flow from within us we experience joy, peace, and hope.
So what flows out of you? What do you express? Yourself? Or the living, resurrected Jesus Christ?