Monday, June 06, 2005

A Search for Self

A friend recently sent me this wonderful quote from Ratzinger (pre-election to the papacy):

"Today an illusion is dangled before us: that a man can find himself without first conquering himself, without the patience of self-denial, and the labour of self-control, that there is no need to endure the discomfort of upholding tradition, or to continue suffering the tension between the ideal and the actual in our nature. The presentation of this illusion constitutes the real crisis of our times."

[Joseph Ratzinger and Hans von Balthasar, Two Say Why, trans. by John Griffiths (Franciscan Herald Press, 1971), p.87.]

It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' discussion of the ego and self-esteem in The Four Loves. He notes that our society puts an emphasis on having a good or high self-esteem. To do this, man must find himself and be confident in his virtues and talents. However, many see themselves as having a low self-esteem and find that as they try to know themselves better they can only see the bad. Sometimes, people make the mistake of glorifying this as "humility." Lewis notes that neither of these are good things. They are each another name for pride through comparison. The former compares and finds himself better, the second finds himself worse than the human ideal he desires. Very much in line with Ratzinger's presentation of an objective against which you must measure yourself, Lewis advocates an ideal of no self-esteem.. He says we should simply look at ourselves as Christ sees us. We should recognize the gifts God has given to us and try to actualize that potential He intended to be employed for the Kingdom. At the same time, in true humility we mush recognize that "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" (Rm 3:23) and ever seek to be more like Christ. In doing so, we will more fully discover ourselves. (Gaudium et Spes 22!)
Isn't it beautiful that Christ has given us the keys with which to unlock the gift of who we are, not merely in an abstract, biological, or psychologically examined way, but rather as an individual creation of a loving God?! In this truth, we can join the Psalmist in praising God for we are beautifully and wonderfully made.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add that it's very intriguing to me how concurrently our culture devalues both real humilty and real innocence. When so many are engaged in either falsely depricating or attempting to aggrandize themselves, I think there is specail reason why the refreshing little child should be rejected. In his joy at each new dandelion he simultaneously aknowledges, 'Look how good God has made the world, and me within it' and 'look how much greater God is than I am'.

It is a gift in itself to recognize gifts, I think. God does love us so terribly much, doesn't he? I do mean terribly, because sometimes it is so powerful an experience that if it could have any other source it would be genuinely terrifying.

My philosophy professor would always say that no matter what you believe, there are some things in reality that can only be approached with a profound awe, and if we acknowledge that, we acknowledge a power and a beauty responsible for the inspiration of which can only be Love.

Thanks for the thoughtful insights!

Filia Dei

PS. Thanks to Skyminder for the introduction. I hope to meet you in person relatively soon!

6/13/2005 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Filliadei said...

Goodness! Am I really the 'Anonymous', the famous hero of poetry, mucis, art, and invention? I wrote a whole essay on how he was responsible for the most impressive accomplishments in history, and I therfore feel exremly guilty for impersonating him. Let this set the rechord straight: I am Filia Dei!

6/13/2005 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Filliadei said...

make that music, and remind me not to go on line after 10pm...

6/13/2005 5:39 PM  
Blogger Kelly Jo said...

Thanks for commenting & thank you for the site you sent me via. skyminder- comments later...
Kelly Jo

6/14/2005 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Filia Dei said...

You are most welcome: I should be the one thanking you for posting things that are fun to read! Sorry to hear about your sister: mine has quite an elaboarte, almost architectural truss system of braces at the moment, and the only thing that keeps her from thinking about the pain is horseback riding... I think it must just be the age she is at!

6/15/2005 5:53 PM  

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