Archimandrite Symeon Krayiopoulos †
What is projection? It’s when someone projects onto others whatever it is that’s inside themselves. To put it more analytically, so that we all understand: people who’ve committed a sin and have repressed the guilt created by it, have, along with the guilt, also repressed their moral conscience; they’ve also repressed the valid law of God and replaced it with their own.
It follows that everything they think, judge and decide id colored with religiosity- for which they probably use passages from the scriptures, the fathers or excerpts from liturgical books as a base- but all of this is a personal construct, which they themselves have made. And it’s all done in order to conceal guilt, whether they realize this or not. In other words, it’s not real, it’s imagined; it’s their own creation. And what happens then?
What they have inside them, their own made-up construct, comes from their own moral law, the law of arrogance and egotism, and this is what they project onto others. So, whatever they have inside themselves, they see in other people. They see in others something which they themselves are dominated by. This is projection.
If you remember, we’ve dwelt on this point in the past to some extent and we’ve said it’s a great evil. Do we see something that’s not good in somebody else? Some error, a weakness, anything at all, let’s say their entire outlook? If we saw this state from the point of view of the other person, with a clear eye, it might be miniscule. But since we already have something within us, an unwholesome world, we take this sick world and, having found a small point of contact with someone else, we project it onto them. It’s as if we’re saying: ‘This is what they’re like’. Whereas, in fact, at that very moment, what we’re doing, neither more nor less, is saying: ‘This is what I’m like’.
Naturally, people don’t say this and it never even crosses their mind, but when they say ‘That’s what they’re like’, ‘That’s what they get up to’, or ‘That’s the sort of person they are’, it’s as if they’re saying: ‘I’ve got these things deep down inside me, but I don’t really know I have and I don’t want to manifest them to others. But those of you who can look and understand can see for yourselves’.
And we now realize how much confusion, how many misunderstandings, disturbances and squabbles arise among us over nothing. Because I’ve seen something small in other people and made it big; and it may be that they’ve seen something small in me and magnified it, since they’re like me in this way. And so it goes on.
So you might say we live in a world of illusions, an imaginary place and we’re dragged back and forth by a phantastic condition that we see in others or that they see in us. This is true; it’s true. It may seem exaggerated but it’s true, whereas what’s really required is for people to think and say: ‘Perhaps I’m not seeing straight. Maybe I don’t understand properly. Perhaps I’m missing something. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me. Since I don’t feel that I have clarity, since I don’t feel that I’m in good standing with God, sanctified and illumined, perhaps I’ve got it all wrong’.
Or we could try to put ourselves in the position of other people. And say: ‘Who knows why they do this, that or the next thing. It may be that they don’t even realize that they do it at all. Who knows their inner workings? Who knows what overshadows them, what they’re suffering from, and why they’re in this state?’.
If these two things are applied, the whole of our relationship with other people will be entirely different. But this can occur only in Christ. Mark that: it can happen only in Christ.
So, repressed guilt prevents us from seeing clearly and acting properly. And I very much doubt if there’s anyone at all who doesn’t have repressed guilt. Not just that we’re sinners, but that we have repressed guilt. Our soul isn’t opened up to God as much as it should be nor how it should be.
And when we have repressed guilt, it doesn’t allow us to see other people properly. For a start, it doesn’t allow us to say: ‘Wait a minute. On the basis of what law am I looking? With the law of Christ, with the attested law of our moral conscience? Or perhaps I’m using some law of my own, which is creating the entanglement which is in the depth of my being, because I’ve sent the other law, that of moral conscience, even further down, into the basement’.
Only in Christ can we become humble and contrite, and can say: ‘God, I stand before you naked and exposed. Will you judge me, punish me, castigate me? As you wish, God. I am your creation and you are my God. You have every right to do as you wish. I’m not hiding’. Naturally, for people to take such a stance requires trust in God and in his tenderness.
So, only Christ can make us circumspect in our assessments. We should take into account the fact that perhaps we don’t see clearly and therefore shouldn’t be quick to say: ‘He’s like that’ or ‘she’s like that’ and so on. Moreover, only in Christ can we say: ‘ Who knows why that person talks like that, or behaves and acts like that.