Self-Aggrandizing Ego and Eternal Suicide

Bank robbers and drug dealers aren’t the only ones who turn their backs on God until they get in trouble. We’re all prone to do this.

Jail house conversions are the stuff of bad jokes and legend. Once in a while, one of these literal “come to Jesus” events holds up throughout the rest of a person’s life. More often, the repentant sinner reverts to their old selves as soon as the bad times pass.

The difference between the convicted felons and the high and mighty of the world in terms of conversion is a matter of circumstance, not righteousness. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that I find it much easier to deal with an alcoholic or a philanderer who knows that they are doing wrong than with a self-righteous, self-worshipping upstanding citizen who only sees the crimes and faults of others.

It is possible to work with the miscreant who knows they have faults. The person who is so sure of their rightness, not so much.

Pope Francis gave a homily yesterday that I think every successful and powerful person should hear. It doesn’t matter if you are an elected official, the head of a corporation or a doctor who is using the medical technology at your disposal to exploit your patients, your soul is always in great peril, precisely because of your successes in the arena of life.

It is too easy to become what the Holy Father calls “corrupt,” which is to say, self-sufficient to the point that you no longer think you need God. The first corruption is always, as Elizabeth Scalia wrote in Strange Gods, making a false idol of yourself. The first challenge of the high and mighty isn’t adultery or abortion or lying or stealing or any of the sins people commit with such reckless disregard for consequence. The first challenge is narcissism. 

Self esteem is not usually a problem for the lords of this world. Realistic self-assessment is. The harbinger of all internal corruption of the powerful is always self-referencing self-adulating self-worship. It is so easy to think that god (little g) is made in your image when nobody tells you “no,” when your jokes are always funny and lunch is always free.

It is, as Jesus told us, easier by far for a successful person to feel they have gained the world and in their smugness, lose their own souls.

Self-corrupted people like this are found inside the Church as well as outside it. Clergy get a heavy dose of unearned respect and adulation along with equally unearned abuse. This is unbalancing for anyone. They are talented people with the ability to persuade others. Their verbal skills are the equal of any politician’s and the temptations they face are often startlingly similar.

That’s probably who Pope Francis was zeroing in his homily this morning. I don’t know, but I would guess that he was talking directly to some of the people sitting in his audience. However the truth of his homily, like all truths about human nature, are universal.

We are killing ourselves spiritually with our self-aggrandizing egos. It is a form of suicide that can last for eternity.

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  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    And yet – even Napoleon was converted and died a Catholic. Mind you, that was after Waterloo.

  • tedseeber

    I have, downloaded from the internet someplace, a long remix of mid 1970s British Television into a sort of an artsy, scary, very long MP3.

    It contains an interview with “Jane Doe”, a rehabilitated parenticide killer, being very 1970s philosophical about how she is “much better now”, and “wise like an old person who has lost their parents”, even though “losing my parents was one of the bad things I had done” and it ends with her doctor saying “we were able to rehabilitate Jane because she knew she had done bad things”.

    Don’t know why I thought of that when reading this.

    Oh yeah, it was Moon Wiring Club’s “Asda mix tape”, don’t remember if it is side A or B.

    Sure would like to know what TV program some of those clips were from, especially the one with Dolly Clothespin and the one with Jane and the two with the hypnotists.

  • Bill S

    “your soul is always in great peril, precisely because of your successes in the arena of life.”

    What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul?

    I don’t believe in life after death or the traditional concept of the soul that enters us at conception and lives on after we die. But we do have something about us that could figuratively be called our soul or that entity that we truly are.

    So, what good does it do you if you achieve success at the expense of losing that sense of who you are and become someone who you don’t want to be. That is losing your soul to me.