The Men Who Really Believe in Themselves

Stop telling me to believe in myself.

No, seriously. Stop it.

I know you mean well, but I also know what the road to hell happens to be paved with (and with all due respect to Stephen King, it ain’t adverbs). Spare me the sentimental goop, the lectures on self-esteem, enlightenment, and so forth. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but what you’re offering is not medicine, Doc. It’s poison.

You tell me to believe in myself. I’ve tried that before, and I’ll tell you what: I scare me.

A trend. It goes like this: when I “believe in myself,” things get messy. Like, PB&J-smeared-all-over-my-honey-covered-face kind of messy. Why?

It’s simple, really. I look within and here’s what I see: I see death and I see darkness and I see desperation and I see depravity. It gets worse, because I know that what I see is not even the half of it. I don’t need to believe in myself, because there’s nothing there worth believing in. That’s why the Son of Man was nailed to a tree and bled and died and rose two thousand years ago – to wash away the darkness and the filth and to bring light to my soul. And get this: that light was no “inner light.” It was Outer Light, a Light Completely Alien to Me. And the initiative was His.

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You tell others to believe in themselves. So they do, and I’ll tell you what: they scare me.

Another trend. It goes like this: when men start believing in themselves, things get messy. Like, wars-across-Europe-and-blood-in-the-Seven-Seas kind of messy.

I see lots of people running around who believe in themselves, people who haven’t the faintest five o’clock shadow of a doubt about themselves. And they should have a doubt. They really should.

Let the Moguls of Self-Esteem rattle their sabers. Who needs them? Perhaps it’s time we consider the possibility… no, the probability… no, the dead-certain fact that Modern Man could use a little less faith in himself and a little more fear of himself. We are the blind who lead the blind, all the while insisting that our vision is 20/20. Short of bloody Divine intervention, there is no happy ending to that story.

So you know what? I think I’ll hang with Chesterton on this one. I think the jolly old soul was on to something when he wrote the following in Orthodoxy:

Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost the motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I suddenly saw that there was nothing in it.

The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get on; he believes in himself.” And I remember that as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written “Hanwell.” I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

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7 thoughts on “The Men Who Really Believe in Themselves”

  1. Isn’t it funny that contemporary culture is more afraid of men who believe in something outside themselves (especially religious doctrines)? Perhaps this is because doctrines don’t adapt to circumstances the same way that the self does, and therefore they require certain courses of action. I think that postmodernism is so afraid that wrong will be done that it prefers beliefs that maintain all potential options and stymie decisive action.

    1. Perhaps this is because doctrines don’t adapt to circumstances the same way that the self does, and therefore they require certain courses of action.

      I think you’re right on with that. We’d rather scrap aboslute truths in favor of our own subjective “values” and “convictions” (if such putty-soft opinions can be called convictions). But then of course, as Chesterton would retort, “He who weds the spirit of the times soon becomes a widower.”

  2. This is fantastic, Corey! “Modern Man could use a little less faith in himself and a little more fear of himself.” We think we are the most advanced, most wise, most hip, most learned culture of all time. Which, of course, means that we are pretty much the most big-headed culture of all time. And that’s a scary place to be. You know what never fails to come after pride. . .

    1. A bloody long fall that’s gonna really, really hurt. :)

      I love how you put it: “We think we are the most advanced, most wise, most hip, most learned culture of all time. Which, of course, means that we are pretty much the most big-headed culture of all time.”

      So much yes.

  3. The first thing that jumps to my mind is a line from a Skillet song, “Monster” which says

    “I feel it deep within, It’s just beneath the skin, I must confess that I feel like a monster.I hate what I’ve become, The nightmare’s just begun.I must confess that I feel like a monster.”

    Looking to myself was what made me flee from Christ for so long. I looked inside, and all I saw was sin and scars and brokeness. Who am I that Christ should love me or forgive me? So I ran. But once I realized that I couldn’t look to myself for worth, that is when I truely realized that it wasn’t my pain and sin that Christ saw, it was the real me, hiding in the corner. To paraphrase Skillet again, “I needed a Hero to come save me” and that couldn’t come from me.

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