“Whenever it is that we come to understand ourselves and the true nature of the world, doing the right thing will cease being a burden. We will do the right thing simply because any other action would be stupid.” P Rosenberg
Growing up, I heard lots of complaints from parents and teachers about children being conceited, proud, and arrogant. Looking back, it seems to me that most of these complaints were related to a failure to obey. We did have one or two kids who were arrogant jerks, but the rest of us received the same comments they did.
But whatever motivated the adults of my youth, they were mostly wrong – it’s not our overvaluation of ourselves that is the real problem; it’s our undervaluation.
Here is a passage from G.K. Chesterton’s The Defendant that makes this argument:
There runs a strange law through the length of human history — that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility.
I think Chesterton was entirely correct, and I think we have all been surrounded by, and influenced by, a “weird and horrible humility.”
Most of us, most of the time, fear making errors, think about our failures and deficits, and live in a sea of guilt. Not only is this dark self-image unnecessary, but it degrades us and is built upon falsehoods.