Monday, October 02, 2006


Congressman Foley resigned, as he should. Dr. Sanity discusses shame and guilt cultures in a post from last year, and I think the distinction between guilt and shame might apply here. Resigning from Congress could spring from either guilt or shame (or some of both), but I think other information suggests guilt.

My own personal soapbox on this is self-respect versus self-esteem. If our goal is self-esteem, then when we do evil things we are hopelessly lost. After having been caught making wildly inappropriate sexual comments to a 16 y/o, reliance on self-esteem would leave one forever wounded. But if your goal is self-respect you can at least make your next act honorable. If you have nothing else, you can at least reassert your ability to make some moral decisions correctly. It is in some ways more painful, because your ability to make a correct moral choice on Tuesday implies pretty strongly that you had that capability on Monday as well. But it is at least reality. You can salvage something. With self-esteem, you either have to accept that you have none, or start lying to yourself to get some.

Tangentially, I am always grateful for sins I'm not tempted to. I don't do so great with the ones I am tempted to, and I'd hate for that list to be longer. So I am hesitant to condemn in detail people who have done things I never could. I'm harder on those whose temptations I understand.


Ben Wyman said...

Whenever the news hits that some celebrity has some terrifyingly appalling sin that I have no temptation towards, I always feel sympathetic when that sin is made extremely public. Usually this is some sexual abuse-type crime. A huge part of a sexual predator's punishment is to have his sins made extremely public and permanently branded on any legal document possible. I don't disagree with it, but there's a part of me that says "I don't think I'd want all of America knowing my darkest secrets." I feel sympathy towards those who are forced to apologize to several million people who never knew them but will never forgive them anyway.

Interestingly, I feel absolutely no sympathy when random sexual predators are caught by the police or FBI and their names are then printed in the paper. Instead, I rejoice. I haven't figured out the reason for this complete divide.

Anonymous said...

I too am greatful for sins that do not attract me. And I understand completely those whose sins resemble mine. When I lament my sins in Confession the priest says, "So, you would like a different set of sins?"

No I would not. I can never be satisfied with my sins---they will vanish only at death, along with temptation---but I thank God what I do does not come to light. And I am free of them, if only for a moment, after Confession.

jw said...

Peck calls it the difference between Self-Love and Self-Esteem: One should always love one's self, but one should not always esteem one's self. The difference is very important.

I too would not want everyone knowing all of my sins. YUCK! Yet, that applies, I think, to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Politics, unfortunately, doesn't include a concept of original sin. If it did, we might be a bit more realistic about the people we elect to run our country.

Does anyone really believe that a politician is a more righteous person than the general run of humanity? Or do we grant that he may be less than perfect, but expect him to rise above his nature because we have entrusted him with power and responsibility? Is either attitude really sensible for people who have lived through Watergate, ABSCAM, Iran-Contra, Monicagate, etc.?

I think we enjoy the downfall of public figures because it allows us to feel superior to them. There's also an element of ritual - the whole process of exposure, investigation, humiliation, legal action, all carried out in the public forum, seems to reassure us that the system works. It's hard, among politicians, to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Episodes like this allow us to clearly identify a very bad guy and treat him accordingly. I think we find comfort and certainty in this.

So my only question is: Who are these politicians, and why can't they get regular jobs and leave the rest of us alone?

Anonymous said...

RE: Original sin and politicians

Everybody has their set of "sins." We have a recovering gambling addict in my church, and, like AVI, I am very sympathetic to her. I have never had any desire to gamble.

But, I think that some people have a "bigger" set of sins. We are all under condemnation for our sins, don't get me wrong, but the Scriptures refer to the "searing of their consciences as with a hot iron." The implication, if you look at this and other verses, is that we can get to a point where sin no longer bothers us. Coupled with our human tendency to need "newer and better" things, those who never repent and turn away from sin have a tendency to try and find "newer and better" sins. Eventually, all sins are "fair game" to those people's consciences.

(I started to write an example using Ted Bundy, but it seemed a bit harsh, and may not have passed certain filters. I will just submit Bundy as an example, and if you don't know anything about his case, look it up. He started out "small" and continuously looked for "newer and better" ways to sin.)

So, what it boils down to is, yes, baxrigger, there are decent politicians. Even Democrats. Decent politicians are the type who are aware that their desires are corrupt, and that they must constantly battle against those desires. Thus, their propensity for sin is "limited", perhaps. (The irony being, of course, that Monica Lewinsky referred to Clinton's "Saturday night/Sunday morning" personality. He would always be regretful after one of their liasions, but he would end up doing it all over again. Clinton's problem is that he considers all things fair game - even lying - for political expediency.)