I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from low self-esteem. As the smiling girl in the wheelchair, I’ve experienced much praise and extra complementary attention from childhood onward. Although I have sometimes suffered from self-doubt, anxiety, and even self-loathing, my love of self remains undaunted. Throughout my life, I have undoubtedly thought too much of myself, believing that I am better, cuter, more talented, or wiser than I am. And I have certainly thought too often of myself, aware of my feelings, opinions, and appearance to the point where I have felt crippled by self-consciousness.
This Lent, I want to get serious about the holy discipline of self-examination and truly reflect upon my sins and my tendencies toward sinfulness. You see, I don’t often reflect upon sin. In fact, I feel like I should begin by explaining sin, since many people may hear the word and close their ears, as I have in the past. By sin I mean the tendency to turn away from God and all that is divinely good, as well as any act of turning away. To accomplish this self-examination and, so, grow more deeply in my relationship with God and increase my desire to become who God created me to be, each week I will reflect upon one of the seven deadly sins. They’re called deadly because they can lead us to live lives that will end only in death, not lives that have their source, sustenance, and ultimate fulfillment in what is eternal — in divine love.
I’m starting with what is called the original sin, or the origin of all sins: pride. What is pride? Selfishness. Self-centeredness. Pride could also be described as self-love, but love of self is not a sin in and of itself. After all, God’s command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” If I do not love myself, then how can I love my neighbor? But how am I to love myself? What kind of love of self is good and proper and what kind is inordinate or excessive — what kind is sinful?
That’s what I’m examining in my own life.
The original version of this reflection was much longer, going into the details of how I have been and am guilty of inordinate self-love, but it felt … well … prideful. You see, I take a certain pride in being able to admit my mistakes and faults.
There does seem to be an odd kind of pride in some types of humility, don’t you think? It’s good for me to examine my conscience and discover where I have failed God and neighbor, recognizing when and where I turned away from doing what was good and, instead, did what was most self-pleasing. But I don’t need to share this examination with you, dear reader. “True confessions” are becoming a new kind of “look at me” in the world at large. People gladly tell all about themselves on social media — as I have done many times. Isn’t the sin of pride at play here?
It should suffice for me to say — and to truly mean it when I say — I am a sinner.
I am small. I am often wrong. I am weak. (I begin my sentences with “I” far too many times.) I am seriously and fatally flawed. I need salvation.
I am nothing without God.
Salvation is another one of those words that used to cause my ears to close. I didn’t really think that I needed to be saved from anything. But I do. Every human being does. We need to be saved from ourselves, from the limited thinking that our finite selves are everything, and that the only things that matter are what we think matters, what we feel matters. We don’t leave the matter of the value of life in God’s hands, we take it into our own hands and think that we can do better than God.
But we can’t.
We are fools.
Beloved fools, yes, but that’s only because God is pure and unbreakable love. God can’t help but love us, not because we are so very lovable — we aren’t, left to our own devices — but because God is love. Love is who God is and what God does, unconditionally. Eternally. God wants us to love ourselves and all of our fellow human beings as He loves us. No one of us is more important than the other, and each and every one of us is given the most important, the most profoundly beautiful, and the most eternally valuable gift: the ability to receive and give divine love.
That’s the only reason that we’re here.
“God’s will for us, our reason for being, is to realize that we are particularly and eternally loved by our Creator, to freely receive and return that love, to personally appreciate and participate in the beloved goodness of Creation, and to experience now and forever the divine fulfillment of giving ourselves to others in love.”[i]
To sin is to miss this mark. Falling short of this life of love, even in the smallest ways throughout my day, leads me away from my true self and the fulfillment of true joy, influencing me to live a life of error, darkness, desperation, and, ultimately, self-destruction. Sin is destructive. And as the Bible tells us in the Book of Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction.”[ii]
The first humans are said to have suffered from the sin of pride, thinking too much of themselves — their lack, their desires, their discernment, their opinions — while mistrusting the supreme wisdom and goodness of God. Mea culpa.
Lord, please help me to be God-centered and not self-centered. May I lose all sense of self for the good of the beloved other. May I always seek You first, putting You first in every moment.
Let’s journey together, dear reader, through this Lenten season, bravely and honestly asking ourselves how often and how far off the mark of truth we are, in full acknowledgment of our human dependency and weakness. Let us ask for God’s help so that we may put on the mind of Christ and walk ever closer with Him, understanding that we are beggars in essential need of God’s life-giving love.
© 2021 Christina Chase
[i] Chase, Christina; It’s Good To Be Here: A Disabled Woman’s Reflections on God in the Flesh and the Sacred Wonder of Being Human; Sophia Institute Press, 2019
[ii] Proverbs 16:18
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.