Richard Beck, thoughtful as always, decides to break his own rule and blog about blogging. Having been flogged in some quarters and praised in others for taking on liberal icon Marcus Borg last week, Richard’s post has been supremely helpful to me:
One of the things I’ve learned from writers like James Alison, a theologian deeply informed by Rene Girard, is how rivalry is intimately associated with our self-concept. Specifically, most of us create, build up and maintain our self-esteem through rivalry with others. Our sense of self-worth is created and supported by some contrast and opposition to others. I am a self in that I am over and against others. Better. Smarter. More righteous. More successful. More authentic. More humane. Less hoodwinked. More tolerant. More insightful. More kind. More something.
In short, selfhood is inherently rivalrous. Rivalry creates the self. Rivalry is the fuel of self-esteem and self-worth.
Which means that the self is inherently violent. The definition of the self is an act of aggression and violence. To be “Richard Beck” is to engage in violence against others, if not physically than affectionally. From sunrise to sunset every thought I have about myself is implicated in acts of comparison, judgement, and evaluation of others, allowing me to create a sense of self and then fill that self with feelings of significance and worthiness.
And this also applies to those with low self-worth, those who define themselves negatively in comparison with others. The violence here is simply internalized, directed toward the self rather than toward others. But at the end of the day it’s the same mechanism, you are either winning or losing the rivalry, having either high or low self-esteem, but in either case the self is still being defined by violence.
Things like blogging, given its nature, can bring these rivalrous feelings to the surface making them more transparent (if you are self-reflective). But it’s just a symptom of a deeper sickness, that the self in inherently rivalrous and that self-esteem is a feeling of significance achieved over against others.
read the rest: Experimental Theology: Self-esteem as Violence.