Monday, May 23, 2011

pointing the finger at myself

Arrogance and conceit. So easy to recognize in others but so very hard to see in ourselves. We notice those who strut, or pose, or sputter loudly. In their mind it passes for self-confidence.

But when does self-confidence, high self-esteem even, morph into that great sin Pride? Where do you draw the line? It's not always clear, but if the line is so blurry perhaps it is best to stay miles away.

I’m inclined to think so. Cultivating a humility mindset is the scriptural antidote. Because humility, true and authentic humility, fosters quiet confidence. But not so much in ourselves, rather, ‘we know in whom we trust’ (2 Ne 4:19)

A lot to think about. And then here, some reading today that intersects:

As I sift and weigh his argument that self-esteem is crap, this stands out:

…those who recognize their weakness and respond in faith, are the ones the scriptures focus on. The scriptures seem to assume that at some point everyone will discover that he or she is inadequate. I think they tell us that at some point everyone will lose confidence. At that point, the choices are despair and faith. Being reduced to despair may be exactly what we need in order to see that choice. As a result, though it may give us the appearance of mental and spiritual health, by postponing the choice between despair and faith, self-confidence built on an image of oneself probably will harm us, leading us to believe there is an alternative to trusting in God, namely trusting in ourselves. Such self-confidence may well hurt us spiritually by allowing us to continue to trust in the arm of flesh.

Ironically, since by definition an image is not the real thing, the self placed at the center when one is concerned about self-image isn’t even a real self. (This is a corollary of the fact that love is necessarily of something other than ourselves: love of self is love of something that is not really our self.) Those in the world who advocate self-image ask us to leave reality in order to concentrate on a fantasy, a positive fantasy to be sure, but a fantasy nonetheless. The self we love in any form of selfishness is an imaginary, not a real self--even if that selfishness, like self- image and Positive Mental Attitude “psychology,” is one our culture and its leaders and teachers approve of.

Advocates of self-esteem will say that such an image is, perhaps, a fantasy, but it is also a goal, something the person can look to which will determine what he will be and how he will perform. But the scriptures seem to me to say that what determines what a person will be, with the Lord’s help, and how she will perform is how much a person ceases to think about herself, how lost she becomes in the work, how much she becomes like a little child, unconcerned about herself as she goes about her Father’s business, not how much she has paid attention to herself, as a goal or otherwise. As a friend of mine said, “It is dangerous to think too much about ourselves. Of all subjects, that’s the one we are the most liable to be biased about.” What the scriptures demand is humility, not self-esteem.

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