Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Meticulous Conscience: Downward Spiral

The title is overstatement. My conscience isn't really meticulous. But I have begun to search it more diligently than I have since I was in the late teens. I search it now with a seasoned eye, an eye that sees deeper that it could before, and eye that is less likely to believe a lie than it was before.

I often have evil little thoughts. (I'm deeply ashamed of them and cannot bring myself to say what they are.) I am able to put them away almost instantly, but to my chagrin I commit a second little sin as soon as the thought is supressed. I congratulate myself on my ability to catch the evil thought and put it away.

A third sin soon follows. I excoriate myself for the self-congratulation, and then almost immediately after congratulate myself once again, this time for the self-excoriation.

No matter how wicked the thought, I always seem to find the good in myself. I'm such a good man, I tell myself, else I never would have realized just how wicked I am.

Thus I spiral downward. Self-congratulation follows upon self-congratulation. The evil of the thought is smothered in the self-created illusion of goodness. Indeed the "goodness" consists in the repudiation of the evil.

Even now I congratulate myself for the ability to discern my predicament. I just can't seem to get away from it, this thought of mine that I am so wise and so good. I've always been like that.

What's worse is that, when I congrulate myself, I often compare myself to others. I tell myself how much better I must be because, unlike them, I harbor no illusions about myself.

How absurd this all is! This need of mine to pat myself on the back, to tell myself how much better I am than those around me - this, I think, is the sin most deeply rooted in me. I pray that God will rip it out.

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