By Ernest O'Neill

Be What We Are or Self-Improvement?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

That is one thing that we all have in common here.  All of us have kind of a built-in gyro-compass or a built-in sense that we should feel right about things.

However wrong everything is, we feel we are meant to feel right about things.  We are meant to have a sense of rightness in life.  There is some power inside us that keeps us trying to make things right.

So, many of us involve ourselves in all kinds of self-improvement efforts.  We decide to lose weight, or we decide to gain weight, or we decide to eat better food, or we try to sleep more regularly so that we will be less irritable with the people at work. Or we decide we will try to improve our communication skills so that we will be able to communicate with our friends and our colleagues.  I think it's true that all of us are anxious to get things right in our lives.

Some of us feel that the reasons for our sense of discomfort, are the attitudes that come from failing to live up to certain standards that religion has set.  So we decide we will go to a self-improvement course in which we try to discipline ourselves to live up to the standards of the Sermon on the Mount, or of the ancient philosophers.

Others of us go the other way completely.  We claim to be existential and we join the existential writers and we say, "Let's face it, human nature is cruddy!  We are self-assertive monsters.  We are always involved in self-defense.  We are always involved in lust and hate and resentment and criticism.  We are always involved in paranoia or in persecuting somebody else.  That's human nature.  Let’s just be what we are.”

“We are miserable wretches.  Let's be that way.  And maybe some time at some point in the universe, the whole three-and-a-half billion of us will be howling like mad at each other, and at that point we will reach some point of euphoria or incredible peace that we never imagined before.  Let's just let it all hang out and express what we think.”

So, some of us have decided that we will go with the attitudes of resentment and criticism and self-defensiveness and self-assertiveness and anger and irritability that we have.  That's the way we are.  We will just be that way, and maybe then we will feel right about it.  At least it will take away the tension of feeling that we are not right.