When Heather Avis and I talked about being at Hope Heals Camp last summer, she mentioned that what made it so distinctive was the lack of ego present.
Heather’s words made me think about our daughter Penny, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome sixteen years ago. Penny has plenty of flaws. She can be mean and rude and selfish. But she doesn’t have much of an ego.
Ego is what tells us to compare ourselves to others, to make sure we look better or sound better or achieve more than others. Ego is the part of us that guards vulnerability, the part of us that needs to become invincible and important. Ego is the part of us desperately hoping no one will notice how fragile and uncertain we are.
Penny takes pride in what she does well, but she doesn’t need to be better than everyone else around her. She laughs freely, at herself and with other people. She forgives readily, both herself and others. That lack of ego opens her up to disappointment and pain and celebration and delight.
As far as I can tell the ego props up the false self, the self-protective actions and behaviors that prove our worth to others. The true self is the beloved self, the part of us that is vulnerable and gifted and seeks to make connection and contribution out of that belovedness rather than out of a need to achieve. Penny doesn’t have a highly developed false self. Her true self shines through. It makes her vulnerable. And it also welcomes anyone who gets to know her into a place of authenticity and love.
Perhaps that’s the invitation for all of us during this Down Syndrome Awareness Month. To recognize that the distinctive qualities of receptivity and welcome so many of us experience in relationship with someone with Down syndrome are actually present within us all, if only we can let go of proving ourselves and receive our belovedness.
(And if you want some practical ideas on how to receive belovedness, look here.)
More with Amy Julia:
- Free Resource: 5 Ways to Experience God’s Love
- Book—A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
- Free Resource: Missing Out on Beautiful: Growing Up With a Child With Down Syndrome
- Ordinary Life With Down Syndrome
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