“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” –C K Chesterton
I really enjoy this quote, especially in the context of our modern world all full of self esteem, self help, self care, self improvement. We older people tend to toss those terms around a bit snidely, as if to mock and ridicule “entitlement culture” and “participation trophies,” all symptomatic of the “self esteem generation. ”
And yet, rendered completely invisible to us, is our own cultural or generational sins, the matter of our own self reliance, self made, selfish selves.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but the common denominator here is “self.” Self esteem is the precise same problem as self reliance, they both orbit exclusively around the “self.”
So we recently had a guest speaker at church, lovely man, engaging, fun, so no complaints there, but like so many others he leaped from the issues of post war baby boomers right over to the entitlement culture of millennials.
And I of Generation X, the lost, the forgotten, taken right out of the equation again, found myself questioning my non existent status and wondering why I do not even have a place in the standard cultural narrative? I really must learn to wear this cloak of complete invisibility like a mysterious superpower, rather then like the taste of a stale chalk eraser in my mouth.
There is something about trying to raise lost and broken millennial children while caring for aging boomer parents that just makes you a bit crazy, as in so, so keenly aware that these two groups don’t even see you as a person in your own right, because of their own massive “self” obsessions.
I suppose one must stand trapped between boomer parents and millennial kids, hearing about how you’ve somehow managed to destroy the whole entire world with all your epic fails, and just thinking so what, let it burn, the whole world I mean. I certainly haven’t got time to save it.
Burned, as in burned out, done, so totally sick and tired of hearing all about it, of forever listening to the lamentations and woes of the aging and the young and their many issues of self orbiting “selves.”
I am oddly grateful for this affliction, this cloak of invisibility, the complete erasure of my self existence, on account of the fact that the asylum has taught me, I really can do nothing apart from Christ who strengthens me. Not a single thing. In Him I am even able to endure this endless blathering and never listening.
Self reliance is a problem, a lie, a deception, a sin, a defect, a disability, just as sure as self esteem is. The problem is the “self” part. The problem is always the “self” part. Too much of me, not enough of Him. There is no moral and upright kind of “self” thing, no good and noble self reliance, self determination, nor even self care, or self improvement. It does not matter how virtuous it sounds, how wonderful a word like “care” or “reliance” sounds, if it must be defined by that adjective “self,” it is just going to be a train wreck.
CK said, “The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” Yes, exactly. My soul needs constant care, the Lord’s care, not my own, because I am completely surrounded on all sides by people who seem to believe only in themselves, with predictable results. And a whole lot of those people are actually Christians.