Tag Archives: ego

Why I Blog

starRecently an angry “neighbor” accused me of blogging for “validation.” Implicit in this accusation (I think) is the idea that seeking validation from other people is somehow a bad quality. I am guessing this angry individual sees it as a form of weakness which is deserving of shame. As is the nature of my relationship with this angry person, his attacks are annoying at first but ultimately serve as a view into his mindset which is both unaware and shame based. This view then gives me material to write about in this blog.

All this interplay has raised the question, why do I blog in the first place? Inspired by the writings of James Altucher, I wrote down a list of ten reasons why I blog:

  1. I like to think that the first and most important reason why I blog is to exercise my writing muscle. That is, the more I write the better I get at writing much the same way that the more a body builder lifts weights the more muscle mass he will develop. From one perspective this motivation could be seen as ego based if the desire to improve is really a desire to look good in the eyes of others as opposed to a love of the craft. I think, however, awareness of this possibility is enough to counteract this ego based tendency for the most part.
  2. I must admit that my angry neighbor’s “validation” accusation is at least partly correct in that I blog because I do other enjoy people reading and reacting to my work. This is a form of validation and to an extent is a form of ego gratification. However, validation and ego gratification are not per se bad things. I do, however, think that they need to be kept in check through awareness and not be allowed to become the primary motivation because that becomes an impediment to spiritual growth.
  3. Practically speaking I blog because my blog can then be used as a resume when people want to see a sample of my writing. I have landed a few paid writing gigs using my blog and e-books as examples of my work.
  4. I blog because I simply enjoy the act of being creative. In my estimation, to enjoy doing something (with the exception of indulging in addictive behavior) for its own sake is an expression of the true self. By definition this is not the work of the ego.
  5. I blog because it has become a habit. I have a goal of writing one blog post every weekend. It has gotten to the point where I just naturally sit down at my keyboard on Saturday or Sunday mornings. At this point if I do not do this I feel like I have something important left undone.
  6. I blog because I feel I have something to say that I think would be helpful to other people who are experiencing situations similar to situations I have experienced. Readers of my blog will know that I write a lot about the topic of shame. In my life I have experienced and to some degree continue to experience an epic journey through this issue. I feel that I have accumulated some insight along the way and I find it meaningful to teach people what I have learned.
  7. I blog because a part of me enjoys baiting people. I am not particularly proud of this motivation. Obviously this part of me that enjoys baiting (i.e., making other people angry) is my ego. The last few months I have spent quite a bit of time writing blog posts at least partially intended to get a response out of my angry neighbor. Again, I am not proud of this motivation but it would be dishonest for me to deny its existence.
  8. By contrast, I blog also because I also enjoy honest and civil discussion with people where topics can be thoroughly explored and developed. I would say that the interactions with my angry neighbor although heated at times also served to explore why he believed the things he believed. I found that aspect of our interaction to be informative and interesting.
  9. I blog because I enjoy being a part of the community of bloggers that exists on the internet. Truthfully, I have not really gotten too deep into this world but I do find it interesting to explore it and to be involved in it from time to time.
  10. Finally, I blog because I experience a pleasant sense of accomplishment when I publish a completed piece of work. I suppose this is related to the “validation” my angry neighbor accused me of being motivated by. I would point out, however, that although some of this accomplishment is ego gratifying, much of it has to do with the fact that the work itself has become a new thing that did not exist before. True, I feel satisfaction that I had a role to play in this process. But I also feel satisfaction for the created thing itself. It is good to create as God himself acknowledged in Genesis.

That (in a nutshell) is why I blog.

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Motivations of the Ego and the Spirit

galaxyContinuing on my Lenten theme of spiritual exploration, I would like to discuss some ideas I had on the ego and the spirit. This is just me thinking on paper and not any conscious attempt on my part to instruct or to judge anyone else. I certainly do not profess to have all the answers, I just like to think and write about what is on my mind. Anything I write should be taken in that spirit.

To being, it seems to me that the ego never sees above its own level. For example Jim might hate his neighbor Bill because Bill offended him in some way years ago. Bill, who was not aware he offended Jim all those years ago, has grown to hate Bill in return because he senses Bill’s hostility. In this example, both Jim and Bill are operating on the level of ego. They sense the hostility or threat from the other and have taken steps to protect themselves from this threat.

But there is a bigger picture that the ego always fails to see. This is the bigger picture (I believe) that the Second Great Commandment “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (MK 12:31) addresses. But in order to see this bigger picture one must step out of their ordinary existence and look beyond material things such as race, political affiliation or petty grievances (for example). It also should not make a difference that the other side does not adhere to the same rules. These are the rules of the spirit after all which are per se above the rules of the ego. Of course, on the level of ego it very much makes a difference that the other side does not play by the same rules.

The ego centered counter argument to the spiritual approach is to say that by following this logic Jim will leave himself venerable to Bill who does not follow this logic. To a certain extent this is true. When a person is physically attacked the ego takes over completely. The fight or flight response is very primitive, rooted in in materiality and self preservation. It is also very necessary, normal and appropriate for survival in emergency situations on the material plane of existence. However, most of life is not an emergency situation. In the modern American world, Bill and Jim have a choice during the majority of their days and weeks to listen to the paranoid call of the ego or to rise above it and listen to the call of the spirit. When people are constantly operating on the ego level of self defense their neighbors will sense this and react accordingly. As long as a person remains unaware of the ego and its motivations he will be governed by his ego. However, with awareness comes the ability to see the ego in action and the ability to chose to go along with the ego or to set aside the ego’s instructions.

To dismiss the ego in this manner implies that the self is in control and making a fully conscious decision. It is somewhat paradoxical that coming more into the self in this manner also means to act more in accordance with the will of God (at least in the context of the Christian world view). I say this because to act in accordance with the Second Great Commandment one must dismiss his ego and make a conscious decision even if the neighbor has not dismissed his ego. Logically there is no other way. It seems to me that to argue otherwise is to attempt to make the self autonomous from God which is ultimately an act of self-annihilation. This is another paradox of the ego in that the ego acts motivated by self preservation but the end result of ego based action is always an act of degradation and ultimately to the detriment of the self.

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Giving of My Self

binary starIn keeping with the theme of Lenten spirituality I would like to expand upon last week’s topic where I discussed the idea of surrendering myself to God’s plan rather than trying to come up with my own scheme. Essentially this amounts to a shift of attitude. I still make plans and guide my life but I am doing so with a sense of acceptance. I do not need to worry so much about the outcome because that is out of my hands.

This is a subtle dance, however. It seems to me that to give myself over authentically is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. This is true because to truly give myself, I must actually have a completely formed or emerged self to give. This seems to happen in three distinct stages.

The first stage in terms of being able to give of myself is what I call “shame based egotism.” In this state my true self is buried deep under layers of ego. Here, my prime motivation is to avoid shame and humiliation at all costs. In a sense this motivation is “self-centered” or egotistical because at its core this motivation is an instinctual, self-preservation strategy. At the same time, however, there is a strong denial of my true self and a sense of obligation to give away myself by giving in to the will of other people. This obligation comes from a feeling of a lack of entitlement to pleasurable or self enhancing experiences. In this stage there can be no giving of my self in a genuine way. My self is actually given away all the time but only grudgingly, with resentment and the feeling of being coerced into doing something I do not want to do..

I will graduate from the first stage of shame based egotism to the second stage of self based egotism when I learn (or muster the courage) to say “no” to other people. The power of shame will fight against this at first telling me that I am being selfish and disloyal. But with enough practice saying no to other people who ask me to do something I do not want to do my true self will begin to emerge. As I said, this stage is still egotism but it is a step in the right direction towards authentic action. By saying no to other people I am essentially declaring that I refuse to give of myself. This act of self preservation then creates the space for a genuine “yes” to be given down the road.

Although this is the only way out of shame based egotism, this second stage carries with it some degree of danger. Many people never make it out of this stage because they feel a sense of liberation and autonomy they have never felt before. In this stage there is the tendency to fall into an “us versus them” type of mindset. There is the sense of having escaped from an oppressive world and the desire to remain free of this oppression. Along with this sense comes the compulsion to make ego based comparisons with “other” people seen as threatening. I believe this is the source of racism and other similar autonomous mindsets.

But once I can say no to other people I am then in a position to say yes authentically. This is the third stage where I am finally able to give of myself and truly live a life according to God’s plan willingly. God’s plan will always be in accord with the will of my true self which had been formerly obscured by the ego. In this way it becomes clear that I must have an ego before I can discard my ego.

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My Life is Not About Me

galaxyI have heard several times lately from several different sources the message that my life is not about me. When I hear a message repeated over and over I tend to think I am hearing it for a reason. Maybe the universe is sending me a message because I am ready to hear it. Or perhaps the message is constantly out there but because I am ready to hear it, I am more open to it and so I do hear it. Both are possible but the common theme between the two is that I am ready to hear it.

This message that my life is not about me is usually conveyed in a religious context and I take it to mean that rather than my life not being about me, that my life is about God. But what does it mean to live a life not about the self but about God? I think it is clear that a person who lives a self centered life does so because he is motivated by his ego. The ego desires comfort, safety, wealth, power for its own aggrandizement and protection. It is distrustful of others, jealous, racist and acts from a place of fear ultimately. By contrast, a person who lives his life according to God’s plan will discard these egocentric qualities and motivations. This is where faith comes in because to do this requires a faith that ultimately all will be well and taken care of despite not keeping a constant fixation upon things being well.

It seems clear to me that God is not ego. What is a little difficult to pin down is a more positive definition of God. But this makes sense in that God is infinite, eternal and beyond comprehension. Naturally an entity fitting this description is beyond definitions and labels. Faith comes in here too in that it takes faith to relate to something that is so intellectually un-relatable. At the same time God is love (1 John 4:8) and thus God is completely relatable because love is relation itself. Clearly Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians is the opposite of ego:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor.13:4-7).

It also seems to me that God is both an “other” and at the same time intimately connected to me. God is an “other” in the sense that He is beyond all comprehension and I am not. Therefore the two of us are different and separate. However, there is also the sense that I came from God and have a connection with Him. In this sense living a life according to God’s plan might be the same thing as living a life in accordance to the will of my true self, which is the part of me that is not ego.

This Lent the message that my life is not about me has been made abundantly clear. I was all set to begin Lent when the sudden death of a family member disrupted everything. This event told me my life is not about myself because I cannot control or predict it. Because I cannot control or predict my life there is someone or something else in control that is not me. To the extent that I try to control or believe I can control my life I am acting in a manner that is contrary to reality which is always destined to end in failure.

God is eternal and as such, God’s plan is eternal. By contrast, my mortal existence is definitely not eternal (as was powerfully demonstrated by the death I just experienced). Accordingly, any plan that I come up with for myself is finite and not like God’s plan. Anything material (e.g. wealth, possessions, health, racial identity) is likewise not eternal. It seems to me that any sort of desperate clutching to these things would be contrary to God’s plan.

It also seems to me that if one adopts an attitude of surrender to God’s plan that a tremendous burden will be lifted. Jesus himself said that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light.” (Matt 11:30). But the question naturally arises, how can one know what is God’s plan? I think the approach to this question is to avoid those things that are definitely not God, like ego. Moreover, it seems logical that if one is acting in accordance with his true self that he will experience a lightness of spirit and an ease of action. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he describes the fruits of the spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23). Clearly these are not the fruits of the ego. And I suppose faith must again come in to play in determining what is and is not in accordance with God’s plan.

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Exploring Why a Genuine White Supremacist Doesn’t Like New Years Resolutions

KKKApparently “Genuine White Supremacists” take issue with people making New Years resolutions. Last week I wrote a piece on New Years resolutions and true to form, my self-described “Genuine White Supremacist” neighbor launched into an accusatory tirade in the comment section. I strive to write at least one blog post a week and last week was inspired to write this particular post because I noticed that a previous post on the subject was getting a few hits. The idea of comparing my current mindset to my previous mindset struck me as interesting and off I went.

We have a little history, my Genuine White Supremacist neighbor and I. He has been somewhat obsessively posting in the comment section of my blog for some time now. For the most part I enjoy the back and forth we have. The fact that we are pretty much diametrically opposed on a number of subjects makes for a lively debate. Our interactions have given me a wealth of material to write about and the traffic to my blog has vastly increased ever since he started contributing. For all those reasons I am grateful. However, there is a certain hostile negativity to his posts which can take our interactions down dark paths from time to time. Fortunately, this is my blog and I am in control of the content so I can easily keep him in line if need be.

One thing I enjoy about him is that his hostility always takes me by surprise. His reaction to my post on New Years resolutions is an excellent example of this:

If you desire to control others then you are constantly attempting to break their “continuum.” The “New Year’s Resolution” is some such mechanism invoked on a mass scale to break the “continuum” of the people’s [mind frame]. There is on January 1st a sort of mass reboot infused with the idea of mandated recalibration and foundational inspection.

Making New Years resolutions is something I would imagine a great many people do. Because many people do this there is naturally a lot of chatter about it in the media. His reaction seems to view this chatter as some sort of top down, mechanism designed by the “media-entertainment complex” (his words) to control people by breaking their “continuum” for some unknown purpose. I suppose this breaking of continuum affected by encouraging people to make New Years resolutions in his thinking prevents them from achieving the clarity of mind he claims to possess by ignoring the custom.

My neighbor continued:

Those most susceptible [sic] to a Self/ego split antagonism will find much meaning in this break in the “continuum” as it essentially validates a perpetually gnawing personal experience AND helps to disperse a personal burden amongst the masses. In other words, your continuous breaks in your personal continuum is eleviated [sic] by the idea of a mass break in the people’s continuum. You find a “heartening” personal to collective relationship in the “New Year’s Resolution” based upon a shared brokenness in one’s Self/ego continuum.

If I read him correctly (and that is always a challenge) I think he is asserting that people who like the idea of a New Years resolution suffer collectively from a condition he refers to here as a “self/ego spit.” By this term I assume he refers to experience of an internal, self-critical voice (i.e., the voice of the ego). He seems to be passing judgment on these people and making the claim that he does not experience this voice, himself. I find this very hard to believe mostly because it has been my experience that people who are a judgmental of other people as he is are equally as judgmental of themselves thus giving rise to the self / ego split and the internal self-critical voice.

Also included is his judgment of the population contending with a self / ego split is the idea that the individuals within this population draw comfort from their neighbors suffering from the same issue. He contends that this is the reason or motivation behind the cultural phenomenon of making New Years resolutions on January 1st. I get the sense that he is also trying to imply that people drawing comfort from neighbors in this way indicates ignorance and weakness on their part which he sees as additional fodder to shame them.

He continues:

I take it as a given that the masses are being controlled from on high… Part of this control is the understanding that most possess a broken “continuum” (conflicting self/ego) and that it is in the validation of the broken “continuum” suffered by the masses as epitomized by the “News Year’s Resolution” that this control is refined and normalized. The broken “continuum” signified by the reboot of a new year’s “resolution” is the attempt to normalize the abnormal… The attempt to legitimate an annual massive reboot and foundational reinspection… The attempt to make regular the idea of a broken continuum in one’s existence.

In the paragraph quoted above he describes the making of New Years resolutions as the “attempt to make regular the idea of a broken continuum…” In other words a non broken continuum is mankind’s real state of affairs only it has been disrupted through cultural traditions like making New Years resolutions.

But what is the making of a New Years resolution? I see it as simply the acknowledgement that I could be better than I am and that I am making a renewed effort to strive towards perfection. Seen through the lens of Christianity (a tradition he claims to adhere to) we are all sinners and we should all strive to be without sin. Apparently he sees himself without sin which I assume is the reason why he sees himself to be entitled to throw the first stone.

He then chose to make things a little more personal:

Your fundamental stance is of a Self/ego conflict that is seemingly unresolvable? But, there seems to be no awareness on your part that you are not, in fact, trying to solve the conflict BECAUSE it is in this very conflict that you maximize your autonomy in relation to others in your proximity.

Remember, I am a GENUINE white Supremacist.

This rather cryptic section requires a little unpacking. Do I believe that the “Self / Ego split” is unresolvable? The answer to this question depends very much on the definition of “resolvable.” If “resolvable” means that I no longer hear that critical voice in the back of my head then no, I do not believe for most people the self/ego split is resolvable. However, if “resolvable” means that I recognize the self critical voice for what it is and am no longer governed by it to the extent that I was, then yes, I do believe it is resolvable. I believe this because I have experienced this resolution first hand.

I suspect my Genuine white Supremacist neighbor on the other hand has not really resolved this split the way he claims. At least he has not resolved it in the manner I just described. Put another way, his resolution of the self / ego split was to side entirely with his ego. In a sense he annihilated his self in favor of his ego. Interestingly, like all egocentrics, he defines himself in comparison to others. He is a “Genuine white Supremacist” afterall. In a sense he merely took his “self / ego split” and externalized it into a “self / other split.” From this lofty perch he can look down upon the masses who are unknowingly manipulated by the media-entertainment complex into making New Years resolutions for the purpose of breaking their continuum.

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Looking Back on New Years Resolutions

NYEIt is interesting to see how much I can change in one year. Last year I wrote a piece about making New Years resolutions. It sort of makes me cringe to read it now. At the time I wrote it I was very interested in dissecting and deconstruction the emotion of shame in an effort to better understand it and by doing so, liberate myself from it. The fact that reading this post now makes me cringe (which is a physical reaction to shame) whereas I did not cringe (presumably) when I first wrote and published the piece suggests that I am indeed now in a different place psychologically. I am aware that imbedded in my cringe is a judgment of my former self. There is a sense that I am now better informed or that I have matured and am now in the position to look down upon this former me. On the other hand, I do not think that me judging my former self is any better than me judging another person. It is essentially criticism and comes from a negative and egocentric place that uses criticism of the other to make myself feel superior.

In that post, my former self began:

So you have decided to make a New Years Resolution and you feel ashamed for various reasons a good deal of the time. Here is what I recommend based upon my life experience dealing with shame issues.

Reading the phrase “[s]o you have decided to make a New Years Resolution…” makes me feel embarrassed. It has an amateurish quality to it. Perhaps this suggests that I have matured as a writer. The embarrassment comes in part from my current self judging my former self but it also comes from me assuming how other people reading this paragraph might have read it and thought that I was acting like a douchebag. This presumes these readers had the maturity then that I have now which may or may not be the case. On the other hand, I am aware that my writing last year comes from a place of compassion for other people who might be dealing with the same shame issues I had dealt with. The fact that I am now judging my former self in this way suggests that maybe I have regressed in terms of my relationship with shame. I am not sure about that because I feel pretty good about myself right now.

My former self continued:

First of all, do not make a New Years Resolution out of a sense of guilt. Only make New Years Resolutions for your own benefit. Of course, your shame ego will tell you this way of thinking is selfish and something to feel ashamed about. Remember that the shame ego is the same thing that will convince you that maintaining the resolution you made out of guilt is too difficult to keep up and then once you stop maintaining the resolution will then tell you that you are weak for giving it up. Of course this requires awareness of when your shame ego is sabotaging your efforts and looking for reasons to feel ashamed (but that is a topic for another blog post).

What I was referring to with the term “shame ego” is that negative, critical, internal voice that probably most people experience to one degree or another. I believe this voice is the result of bad programing and is passed down from generation to generation through the line of fathers. It results from the combination of shame and misplaced loyalty. A person is shamed by his parents. Because they are his parents he must internalize this feeling of shame or else he will be disloyal to them. Being disloyal in turn brings on more shame. When this person becomes a parent, if he remains unaware and has not achieved autonomy from this dynamic, he will shame his children in the same manner because it feels good to his ego which is really in charge. This dysfunctional ego is the source of shame, judgment, jealousy, racism and all the other sins.

Making a New Years resolution seems to me to be an attempt to strive towards some perfected version of the self. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what the motivation behind this striving is. If the striving comes from a whole hearted place, an honest and loving place then it is good. If it comes from an egocentric, shameful, judgmental place then it will always be dysfunctional and will end in harming the self and others. It is ultimately doomed to failure.

My former self continued:

I recommend your resolution should either be to stop performing some self-destructive behavior or to take up a behavior that improves yourself. It should be something you are capable of doing with your whole heart. That is, it should be something you want to do. People with well-developed shame egos have a hard time knowing what they truly want because they have bonded to the message that what they want is wrong.

I think this last point is important. I believe a person cannot be successful in life if he is incapable of articulating what he wants. If he believes what he truly wants is wrong he will sabotage his efforts to achieve this secret goal. If he pursues goals that are not in line with what he truly wants he will not be satisfied when he has achieved them. Shame teaches a person that his desires and needs are selfish and wrong and to the extent he is aware of his true desires he should feel shame. So he buries them and they remain unconscious. The only entity this dynamic serves is the ego which revels in this morass like a pig in its own excrement.

My former self continued:

A good way to tell if something is what you want is to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good then it is (most likely) good and something you like doing. If it does not make you feel good then it is (most likely) not good and something you do not like doing. Be careful. Some things feel good in the short-term but are destructive in the long-term, like addictions. Addictions are another trap of the shame ego. At first addictions seem like an escape from the shame ego’s constant criticism. That of course feels good. But eventually the addiction becomes self-destructive and gives the shame ego another reason to criticize you.

I would imagine that this last paragraph might irk a person who self identifies as conservative. Perhaps I should clarify that feeling good is an indicator that one is acting in accordance with his true purpose or indeed God’s will. It has been my experience that true purpose is almost never in accordance with the ego and acting in accordance with the ego gives rise to anger, resentment, jealousy, racism and hate.

I believe most people make New Years resolutions because they find themselves lacking and they want to improve. A person’s motivation to improve, his plan to improve and his execution of that plan can always run afoul of the wants and needs of his true self. To right the course of the ship of self, I think it is always a good thing to increase awareness of the self and the ego’s attempts to undermine the self. Awareness of the ego brings about a separation from the ego. In a sense the self becomes autonomous from the ego thus allowing it to act more fully in accordance with its true purpose.

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Loving Thy Neighbor and Ebenezer Scrooge

NeighborIt should not surprise me that my neighbor reads Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and takes the position that Scrooge was better off before his conversion. He feels the problem in the story truly lies with Scrooge’s liberal neighbors who judge him negatively for his conservative values. My neighbor feels that they are hypocritically disobeying the Second Commandment to love thy neighbor when they judge Scrooge in this manner. I cannot entirely dismiss my neighbor’s point of view. Often times “judgment” does not come from a place of love and compassion. Frequently judgment of others results from the ego trying to mitigate the pain of its own shame. In this sense judgment is the ego telling itself, “Look! I am better than him.” Accordingly, to the extent Scrooge’s liberal neighbors did judge him in this way they certainly were not acting in accordance with the Second Commandment.

However, not all of Scrooge’s neighbors judged him in this manner. Certainly, Scrooge’s nephew did not judge him this way. Fred made a special point of inviting Scrooge to dinner despite his uncle’s abusive behavior. Fred did judge Scrooge in the sense that he made clear that he disagreed with Scrooge’s perspective on Christmas. But in my reading of the story this judgment came from a place of compassion. Fred truly wanted to connect with his uncle and not to put himself above uncle for the purpose of gratifying his ego.

It could be argued that Dickens himself is judging Scrooge in the egocentric sense. Certainly the following paragraph exudes this type of energy:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster…

Now, if I know my neighbor (and I think I have had enough experience with him to know him well enough although he does possess the ability to surprise me often enough) I can anticipate how he would react to that description. I suspect he would say that this is Dickens’ description and Dickens is the same type of judgmental, hypocritical liberal as are Scrooge’s neighbors. Assuming this actually reflects my neighbor’s potential reaction, it is interesting how he can project such a consistently schizophrenic view of the world into every situation. To him, even the author of a story (the creator of a universe in a sense) is unaware of his own warped, destructive and self-annihilating view of the world. It is as if there is a real story about Scrooge that exists elsewhere and Dickens’ version is a contrived piece of propaganda serving some nefarious purpose. If I am correct, my neighbor sees the story “A Christmas Carol” itself as a humbug in the fullest sense of the word.

I would argue, however, that the story is not written from an egocentric, judgmental perspective but from a compassionate one. True, in the opening scenes we see him acting abusively towards his clerk, his nephew, the two solicitors and the young caroler. When the first of the three spirits displays scenes from his past we see that he seemingly valued money more than the love of his fiancé. All these exhibits display the negative aspects of Scrooge’s value system. But then we also see the reasons why this behavior came about. We hear of Scrooge’s neglectful upbringing by an abusive father who blamed him for Scrooge’s mother’s death. We also see glimpses of Scrooge’s good nature; his gratitude for Fessiwig’s kindness and his compassion for Tiny Tim. We see his remorse for pushing away his fiancé and his fear of dying an unredeemed man. All these examples are to show that Dickens wrote this story from a place of compassion for Scrooge. As readers we pick up on this energy and root for Scrooge despite his negative behavior.

Therefore, I cannot agree with my neighbor’s assessment that Scrooge was better off as a bitter, lonely, old man. Nor can I agree with my neighbor that all of Scrooge’s neighbors were hypocritical, judgmental liberals who hated Scrooge for his conservative values. Nor can I agree with my neighbor’s shame-based, egocentric judgment of the “liberals” he seems to despise. His judgment does not come from a place of compassion and in my assessment is in violation of the Second Commandment. I now must examine my conscience to determine where my judgment of my neighbor comes from.

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