Devotion: On Repentance and Assholes (philosophically speaking)

Psalm 139
Search me, O God and know my heart,
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I found this image the other week, and while it produced a chuckle, I believe it also effectively reveals our culture’s narcissistic drive for self-awareness without repentance. Right about now you are thinking, “Huh, Wes, lighten up and don’t make every Buzzfeed photo a sermon.” But bear with me.

I read a great book this year called Assholes: A Theory by a Standford Philosophy professor. It’s main point was that an asshole is a man “who systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunized him against the complaints of other people.”  (BTW, just for fun you should read pages 2 & 67 and notice one of his primary examples).

This man in the stands is the perfect example of an asshole…philosophically speaking of course. This gentlemen is looking to draw humorous attention to himself, and unlike every other sign-bearer, he is aware that he is blocking the view of others. Yet, he proceeds with this self-aggrandizing display.

Though he shows self-awareness, his self-awareness has produced no effective change in his life in order to benefit others.

Self-awareness has become a term du jour these days. The mindfulness movement has produced books, magazines, noon-day television shows and podcasts that seek to help people become more attuned to their bodies, minds and spirits. This, however, is actually not new; the Jesuits created a process of self-examination and required all recruits to enter an arduous process of self-awareness.

What is new is that our narcissistic culture has failed to follow up with the next stage of self-awareness–Repentence. Being attuned to oneself without conversion is not enough. Assholes are aware of themselves, they just don’t care about others.

The Gospel, however, seeks to take us from a self-awareness through repentence and ultimately to a position of self-forgetfulness.

Tim Keller builds off of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity when he writes in a great little book called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

How might you move from self-awareness to a position of self-forgetfulness? How might you need to repent from your assholism?

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