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Friday, November 30 2001

The first deadly sin

I've been asking if there's grounds for debate over the traditional Christian description of human nature (fallen, sinful, inherently incapable of any true good) and modern psychology's finding that people's low opinion of themselves is the root of much or most of their dissatisfaction with life. On one hand, the price of our innate self-centerness is death and condemnation, yet even the biblical source (in written-form) of that sentence also teaches that our worth to God was enough to move Him to come from glory to squalor, from eternity to temporal human suffering and death to "buy us back."

While the undergraduate course in psychology may encourage some to boast in their youth, beauty, possessions, and power, I can also see that many of the sources of dissatisfaction with life that boil over as hatred, destruction, and murderous intent can be treated by raising the self-image such tortured souls have of themselves.

Self-esteem—esteeming ourselves better than others—is the root of most sinfulness in our natures; it's another name for pride, the first deadly vice. The bully gets satisfaction in terrorizing those weaker or meeker than himself. Yet self-esteem—feeling good about ourselves and our purpose in being given life—is a cure of many of our reckless inclinations. The meek milquetoast can become so frustrated as to buy and use a gun to get back at the bullies; but he can also be turned from such a course if the "bully" realizes that he can have even more meaningful "power" over his "inferiors" by recognizing and complimenting their humanness and worth. It's a great conundrum or seeming contradition.

But the solution that unties the knot is not in the innate goodness or badness in the concept "self-esteem." Rather, it's in the quest—the object of our search—for self-worth. Is the quest toward things, either materially as possessions or "toys" or as anything we see lacking in ourselves and envy in others? Or is the end toward we're searching spiritual or timeless values like caring and helping others? Does the bully envy the popular, bright teacher's favorite because that one works harder at his homework, or does he envy the praise and good grades the favorite's work and persistence earn him? Might the bully even envy the stable, loving home environment the bright student lives in, where good grades, good behavior, and getting ahead in school and life are encouraged? Obviously, they're rhetorical questions.

Of course, the bright high-achiever can be just as guilty of pride and self-centered motives as his muscular nemesis. He can boast of his grades and his awards and the praise he receives rather than the good ends his achievements can be turned toward.

See you here on Tuesday.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

I'm a senior citizen (one of a series)

I'm not grouchy ... I just don't like traffic, waiting, crowds, children, or politicians.

I'm positive I did housework correctly before my mate retired.

I'm sure everything I can't find is in a secure place.

I'm wrinkled, saggy, lumpy, and that's just my left leg.

I'm having trouble remembering simple words like.....

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Advent thought for the day

Abba Tithoes used to say, "Pilgrimage means that a man should control his tongue."

— Sent by Christopher Haas

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