the splitting of se lf (and empty sex)
Professor Slughorn: “A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul.”
Tom Riddle: “I don’t quite understand how that works, sir.”
Slughorn: “Well, you split your soul, you see, and hide part of it [away] …but, of course, existence in such a form…few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable.”
Riddle: “And how exactly does one split his soul?”
Slughorn: “Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature.”
Riddle: “But how do you do it?”
Slughorn: “By an act of evil — the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart.”
I realize that you may not be a serial killer.
But I’m sure you know that there are other, less murder-y ways to do damage to your soul.
In her landmark Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling affirms just this in advancing the wonderful analogy of the Horcrux: certain actions tear apart the human soul.
Obviously, murder is one way to do it. But sometimes, just keeping secrets can be similarly destructive.
I mean, have you ever felt like you were living a double life?
Wearing a mask, playing pretend, wielding dual identities.
Living a lie.
Going to church with your girlfriend and then running home to have sex afterwards.
Speaking at a forum on chastity and tolerance and then hitting the bars with the intention to of doing things you wouldn’t dare mention in the light.
Acting like you’re super excited to get totally black out at this party tonight when really…you just feel like curling up with a good book tonight.
Has it ever gotten to the point where it feels like you’re living in between two worlds, always saying one thing but thinking and feeling another?
It’s a pretty sucky feeling, right?
You don’t even know who you really are sometimes.
I think I’ve felt like this for most of my life, like I was hiding in plain sight.
And it starts out so small. Faking a smile, throwing yourself into a hug that you didn’t really want, feigning joy at the opening of a terrible present, exaggerating a story for comedic effect…laughing at a nasty joke you didn’t really find all that funny.
But even these small compromises matter because what we present of ourselves to others is often all they ever see.
If you let your true feelings slip too far below that surface, you – the real you – will shrink smaller and smaller and sink deeper and deeper down until you’re barely visible anymore.
Sorry, that was a really convoluted sentence. Let me unpack that.
If we aren’t regularly honest to others about our actual feelings, we will find ourselves constantly sacrificing our true thoughts, intentions, desires, and identity to each new person that we meet. Situation, if you let it, will dictate the entirety of your character until you find yourself acting one way in front of certain people, and the complete opposite in other situations…until it really feels like you’re living a double life.
People do it all the time.
A costumed vigilante
living as a high-class playboy by day
and fighting crime by night.
A closet atheist
who finds himself leading his church’s youth group.
A serial killer.
Doing his thang.
There are all sorts of ways to keep your outer-self out-of-sync with your inner-self.
Politicians are good at it.
Look at Harvey Dent.
Before becoming a District Attorney, Dent worked to root out corruption in the Gotham Police Department through a job in Internal Investigations. He picked up the nickname “Harvey two-face” because he would cozy up to officers like a friend but betray their trust when he discovered any wrongdoing.
Imagine all of those spirited water-cooler conversations and cozy carpools to the office, the drinks after work at the local dive bar…in each moment in each of these conversations, despite the apparent trust, friendship, and intimacy, Harvey was constantly calling up something false from deep inside himself, or perhaps better said, he was always suppressing what was real. He was perfecting in himself a fakeness, an inauthentic, clean exterior that did not reflect what was going on inside.
It is unacceptable to use your visible, moral cleanliness as an excuse to flirt with your obscured, inner darkness.
Many of my friends have told me that when they started getting serious about their faith (or their job, or school), drinking was one of the biggest things they knew they had to cut out. Most of them describe an uncomfortable, awkward middle phase, a transitory, shame-filled sphere of conscience where they felt extremely hypocritical but tried to keep it hidden because, after all, they were just doing the things they had always been doing.
It’s a very painful process and I think it hurts so much because you are splitting your soul, pulling yourself in two, when you perpetuate this behavior. What you are really perpetuating is a basic disconnect between living the way the world tells you to live and fearlessly seeking out the honest life God created you to live.
And there are always consequences to keeping ourselves in this place.
Kurt Vonnegut said it best.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Or as author Rob Bell puts it in his book Velvet Elvis,
“What happens is our lives become so heavily oriented around the expectations of others that we become more and more like them and less and less like ourselves. We become split.”
Okay. Think of the slickest, most popular person you know.
Odds are, people probably like this guy or girl so much because they impossibly contort themselves to fit every possible social situation. They become whatever other people need them to be and, in doing so, they consistently sacrifice their own self by adjusting to the endless social cues from those around them.
They become split.
Trying to be the same person everywhere is difficult, confusing, and downright awkward sometimes, and I’m terrible at it. But it’s healthier and we need to aim for it.
The only escape I have ever found from this cycle of hypocrisy? Honesty.
If you’re familiar with the recovery movement, you’ve heard the saying “you’re only as sick as your secrets.”
It’s true. You see, secrets demand…secrecy. The second we become open about our struggles and our inner darkness, we discover that our secrets have lost a bit of their terrifying sheen. Other people can relate. Most of our secrets’ urgency is gone. They are real. Identifiable, no longer hidden in the dark.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep certain things to ourselves. There is a difference between secrets and privacy.
Privacy, I desire. But secrets are terrible things.
They tear your soul apart if you keep them caged for too long as they simultaneously exacerbate and perpetuate the splitting of self.
Shedding some light on your inner dark is going to be hard. Especially at first. So start small. Check out PostSecret Project. Post on a forum. Journal it, process it, wade through the depths of your soul. Most people will never get this far. But you must.
Then branch out. Whatever “it” is, probe it. Challenge it, expose it, share it with your mom, open up to a group about it, cry out and thrust it in God’s face and dialogue with Him and ask Him why it’s there.
It’s in the context of openness and honest community that healing begins.
This process, if you do it right, is going to be extremely painful. It’s a lot more comfortable to just continue to suppress and deny and hide your struggles.
Opening up the cracks of your soul that nobody has ever seen before…it’s terrifying. There’s nothing scarier than being absolutely, emotionally, naked and transparent in front of another human being. But diving down into your muck and junk and all the crap that happened to you as a kid that you thought never affected you …it’s the only way to be truly healed.
I was going to close here, but I thought as long as we were talking about nakedness…
the easiest way that I can think of to amplify and accelerate the splitting of self is
you guessed it:
because sex isn’t supposed to be just another desperate clawing in the search for meaning and acceptance in life; instead, it’s designed to be the overflow of something that’s already there.
It should be about two people being so filled up that there’s nowhere to go but up, nothing to do but give and explode outwards in perfect joy and union and love and one flesh.
Not two lonely, sad people scrapping for frantic, selfish pleasure.
When someone desires someone else on a purely physical level, let’s consider a boy lusting after a girl, what he’s essentially doing is separating her into different, quantifiable categories. A leg here, an arm there, two breasts there, a soul over there. He is after her body, or certain aspects of that body, or perhaps the things she can do with those certain aspects of that body, rather than desiring all of her.
He wants one part of her and not the entirety of her being.
You realize what this does, right?
It splits her.
Sex, if it’s not done right, it can split us – and this is far more common than murder.
To say that you really love someone, that you want them, should mean that you love and want ALL of them.
To have sex with someone should say that your desire exceeds just the physical and that you yearn with all of your soul to unconditionally accept all of them.
All of them.
Not just their physical.
Their emotional, their intellectual, their topical, their psychosocial.
Otherwise we split that person.
We split a very real, finite body from an equally real, infinite soul. We split what we can touch and taste and hear and see apart from everything that we can’t. In as dangerous a manner as secrets or murder, when we engage in empty sex, we tear apart a person’s right-here, right-now reality from their intangibles: their hopes and fears and doubts and loves and dreams and the eternal perseverance of their soul.
And their soul is endless, boundless in possibility.
Like humans, sex isn’t just physical. It’s emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s transcendental.
And it deserves better.
Thanks for reading, everybody.
I want to thank everyone who helped contribute for this post, I know I was seeking a lot of wisdom and I thank you all for coming through. Special thanks to JT, AW, MB, RB, MM, SR, JWK, STL, and anonymous.
check out part 1 of the series here.