Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Are A Boring, Selfish Jerk

It's a fundamental tenet of my theology and my anthropology that admitting you are a boring, selfish jerk is the first step on the lifelong road to not being a boring, selfish jerk.

The trouble is, sometimes I find myself unable to take any other steps.

When I haven't written anything in a while, it's usually because I've been getting bogged down in self-recrimination. There's no point. I have nothing to say. God, I am such a boring, selfish jerk.

External validation doesn't really help. In fact, my psyche can get quite creative in trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance of, say, having many awesome friends whilst knowing myself to be a boring, selfish jerk. At best, I am cheered that I have at last developed some ability to pretend to other humans that I am not (entirely) a boring, selfish jerk.

After all, what is human interaction but a continuous endeavor to pretend to one another that we are not (or, to put it less cynically, to try not to be) boring, selfish jerks?

And how am I supposed to live out the sacred mantra Be True To Yourself when even I can't stand my true self?

I think seminary probably has a higher-than-average concentration of people who loathe themselves. I think an acute awareness of and furious frustration with your own total depravity can be a very powerful motivating factor to orient yourself toward the Ultimate.

Sometimes, though, it swamps you. It's not that life doesn't go on. It's not that you don't still have plenty to enjoy and be grateful for. It's just that you go about it all stooped under the consuming burden of self-knowledge. And what are you supposed to do with that?

What do you do with all that self-loathing?


  1. I don't know you in real life, so I suppose I have no idea if you're selfish or a jerk (though you certainly don't seem to be), but I can assure you that if the picture of yourself you present here is remotely accurate, you're not in the least bit boring.

    May that serve as at least some consolation. ;)

  2. Thank you, Bill. You're very kind.

  3. This post caught my eye in my feed today, after I read your latest post. Timing is a funny thing sometimes: I'm just pulling out of one of those deep self-loathing moments.

    I guess my answer to your last question is to practice a sort of mindfulness about it. Try to just acknowledge it, and let it guide your behavior (i.e. still try not to be a boring selfish jerk), without attaching too much emotional weight to it in terms of self-valuation. (It's hard to put this words well, arg.) Detaching the notion of oneself as a being needing love from any measure, because one will never measure up 100% of the time. It can't be earned that way; only given and received freely. Just say 'yes, it's true, sometimes I'm a boring selfish jerk and I should try to do something about that,' and go on the best one can.

    Perhaps I should say: this helps me deal with the issue. I've no clue if this will be helpful to you, and is by no means an original stragety anyway. Possibly I am being a boring jerk right now, bringing up the issue after it's old news - apologies if so. You simply touched on something that spoke to me. (And I second Bill's comments above. Thank you for writing!)