Thinking of the many contributions, made to this Blog I have come to the conclusion that we are a very humble group. We are quite careful, when expressing an opinion not to be too self congratulating. We all admit, directly or indirectly, that we may lack aspects of Christian quality, that we are prone to sinfulness, and that we fall short in many ways. It is almost as if we need to assert our humility before we are able to point out the failure of others.
Now, is this a good thing?
I ask the question because of the psychology of self image. Quite simply human beings live up to, or down to, the image they have of themselves. Let’s suppose I have an image of myself as a generous person. In accepting such an image I find myself living it out. Faced by a practical decision I am inclined to say, at least instinctively: because I am a generous person I will do the generous thing in this decision. That is ‘living up’ to my image. By contrast, supposing I see myself as shy and tongue-tied in company. Then my picture of myself makes me anxious, and I very quickly confirm my image by hesitations and the occasional idiotic remark which others charitably ignore. That’s ‘living down’.
When I was in the commercial world I had much to do with salespeople. Their measurement, and indeed their income, were directly related to concrete success. But the difference in performance did not appear to be the outcome of good education or the gift of the gab; but it was related to their self image. Thus a person who saw himself as someone who would make ten sales a month would organise their activities on that basis, with a confidence that they would succeed. The ‘two sales a month’ salesperson would settle for that since it was their expectation. And, as the months went by, their respective self images would be regularly confirmed, and harder to change.
But does this apply to the Christian virtues? If I see myself as a sinful person does that enable me to repent and improve? Or do I just have a low expectation of myself and remain content with that? Would all our examinations of conscience be better for thinking about what we get right and building on that – rather than focussing remorselessly on our faults and seeing ourselves as unsatisfactory people?