Eliot: Half The Harm Done In This World

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

—T. S. Eliot, “The Cocktail Party” (1949), Act 1, scene 1. (HT: Thomas Sowell)

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  1. Dr. Clark, is there such a thing as a person being more of a cynic towards oneself rather than toward others? Or is that being partially naive (pardon the lack of a diaeresis over the “i”)?

    • Durell,

      It is possible for people to be too hard on themselves or to refuse to see evidence of God’s grace in their lives. I know of some who, because they define assurance as a second blessing and because they greatly fear presumption, refuse to receive assurance because they see it as presumption and thus as evidence of damnation. That is, in my view, a refusal to receive God’s grace.

      Generally, in our Narcissicistic, therapeutic age, we are probably not self-critical enough. It’s generational, however. Where I grew up and when self-esteem was not permitted and if it was discovered it was quickly removed. Now, of course, self-esteem is considered an unalienable right even if it has no relation to objective reality.

      We believers need to learn to see ourselves as God describes us in Scripture, as fallen image bearers, as worthy of condemnation in ourselves but as righteous (sola gratia, sola fide) and as being gradually renewed by the grace of God alone through faith alone.

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