Saturday, November 20, 2004

Kierkegaard on becoming self

Is the sin of human condition primarily egoism -- false self-assertion? Or is it rather more the refusal to become a real person, a true ‘self’ [as Kierkegaard puts it]?

In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard believes that most people never become selves. Here Kierkegaard highlights sin primarily in terms of self-abdication -- the refusal, denial of the task of becoming a real human, a self in the eyes of God.

In ‘Theology and Women,’ Carol Lakey Hess comments:

For Kierkegaard, human sin was not so much a result of inflated and self-possessing egocentrism, but rather the consequence of a person’s refusal to become a self, i.e., self-abdication. He viewed despair over becoming a self as the common human condition, and he emphasized the importance of the self choosing and becoming a self, contending that the ‘self has the task of becoming itself in freedom,’ and choosing itself before God.

This is a fascinating concept: does false grasping and false ‘will to power’ stem from a first refusal to become real self before God?

Is egoism first a denial of the task of becoming fully human? Is fallen human grasping a cover for not being real?

Hess notes that Kierkegaard recognizes the deep sin of pride, but roots it in self-despair.

For Kierkegaard there were three manifestations of human despair over becoming a self: 1. “spiritlessness,” the failure to realize one’s possibility; 2. “weakness,” the move to escape from one’s self; and 3. “defiance,” the attempt to affirm and master oneself by denying dependence upon God.

A riveting analysis of human condition! Is the sin of pride [self-aggrandizement and egoism and all its children] rooted in despair over becoming a real self before God...?

What would it mean to become the true self I was destined to be before the world began?

Prayer: O God, help me to become real before You, and to embrace all that this means for my world! Amen.


Christopher said...

Your post reminds me a great deal of Thomas Merton's writings, many of which focused on the dichotomy btw/ the false and illusory self and finding one's true self in God . . . . . although at this late/early hour the name of the book escapes me.

Anyway, good post!

Loy Mershimer said...

Thanks, Christopher!

I have not explored Merton much. I'd be interested to see what he wrote on this, though. Do you think he was approaching this from a Kierkegaardian stream or arriving at this awareness from another angle altogether?

This concept is pretty deep, I'll admit. I still don't have my mind around it all. I'm still trying to understand Kierkegaard on this...

Thanks for the thought, though!

God bless,