The hardest part of the journey along the upward path is the gradual realization that our work to awaken to real life is, at best, imperfect. Along the ascending path, each footfall serves to echo an unwanted reminder of our imperfect actions, imperfect thoughts and feelings, imperfect devotion, and so forth and so on. However, seeing these image-shattering truths about ourselves is but half the trial and, in some ways, the lesser of the challenges to be faced along the way.
The greater part of this difficulty -- and perhaps the most slippery part of the upper path -- is the temptation to judge ourselves -- to loath ourselves for whatever that "weakness" is that now sits exposed. The act of judging ourselves in times like these seems natural and even necessary if we hope to ever "outgrow" our own limitations as revealed. But this kind of self-laceration is a Trojan horse within whose dark recesses lies hidden a certain fact that, once perceived, frees us from the torment of self-judgment:
The pain in any unwanted revelation about our present level of self is created in that moment by the same low level of self that doesn't want to be revealed.
Now, to this last fact add the following important idea: when our attention is drawn to how much we don't want to be what we are in that moment, we can't see ourselves as we actually are! This means that all forms of resistance-born reactions are blinding agents; they mask the fact of the moment with powerful, unwanted sensations that steal our attention so that instead of being self-aware -- conscious of the whole of us -- we are aware only of the painful reaction and what it points to as being the cause of our suffering.
Despising ourselves for missing the mark doesn't prove we could have hit the mark and didn't. It proves only that the unconscious nature involved in this kind of pain doesn't know what the true mark is or else it wouldn't be tearing into itself. This deception is as deep as it is cunning and dark: hating ourselves for our weakness is the way secret weakness passes itself off as strength.
Real spiritual strength is realized, slowly, by daring to detect and drop these blind negative states that we've been allowing to define us. And, believe it or not, this choice to no longer agree to ache over what you are not is the most difficult part of one's work to be free. After all, when there is no one and nothing left within oneself to blame for one's weakness, it's also pretty clear that turning to one's "self" for help is like asking a donkey for the directions to heaven.
The interior work to realize the immortal Self is a never-ending journey; and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't begin with our wish to awaken but rather with God working within us to awaken us to the otherworldly nature of celestial love. If we agree to go through what is asked of us in this way, then it is through our union with the Divine -- and the interior labor this calls for -- that we gradually realize a conscious relationship with a love that is the same as life unending.
The time will come, if we persist, when we will no longer fear seeing our weakness but rather realize its presence as a shadow that only appears as it does because of a living light that serves to reveal it. And the greater this understanding grows, the greater the strength of this light becomes our own.