self

Self-destruction on the other hand…

‘Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…’

I’ve written before about my love for this Fight Club quote. Now, it’s coming to my mind again as we begin lent.

There’s a common tendency to view lent as another chance at New Year’s resolutions, and with it self-improvement. An opportunity to diet and/or save. To become a better version of yourself.

But originally and traditionally and essentially, it is about self-destruction over improvement. That is, it is about uniting ourselves to Jesus upon the cross. It is about putting yourself to death.

Why do we do this? Why have many saints down the ages gone to extreme lengths for lent? Because our selves are prisons to break out of, into the freedom of divine love. Because true life is not a matter of preservation, but of giving ourselves away, even to death. Because God Himself lives in this way, dying and giving Himself away.

If we are nourished and taught and loved by such a God, we will come to imitate Him. God expresses Himself to us in love, and therefore His image is impressed into us. We love, because He first loved us.

So I just want to encourage you to destroy yourself this lent, because God loves you.

It is true that we can only destroy ourselves and take up this freedom because we have received His love. It is not possible in ourselves, but only in Jesus Christ, by the power of His death. And yet also, the more we willingly submit to the consuming fire of the divine love, the more freely His love will enter us and transform us into Itself.

God bless you!

Thomas Merton, St Joseph, and Tyler Durden

I was thinking today about what sort of man I want to be known as. My answer was “strong”. But then I realised, that this is my false self (in the words of Thomas Merton) speaking. How do I know? Because it looks at how I’m seen, not how I am.

I was reminded of St Joseph’s great silence in the Bible. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and didn’t care what others thought. He fathered God, but never made a big deal of it. He simply got on and did his duty, or equivalently, did God’s will for him.

St Joseph is the dreamer, but doesn’t fulfil his dreams by words, but by humble, consistent, grueling work. He never sought glory, but was content to contribute to the glory of God, whether he was seen or unseen. I pray God let me imitate my namesake in this [Ignatius is my confirmation name, and Joseph my baptismal].

I also remembered a very different character, with different wisdom: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden said, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…”

I absolutely love this quote.

Self-improvement is masturbation because it’s self-pleasing and doesn’t bear any fruit. It’s infantile and revolting. It’s a waste of life to please yourself by becoming “better”. Stop pleasuring yourself in public!

Self-destruction on the other hand… liberates us. Fight Club is about men abandoning what Jesus calls, “the world”. Tyler Durden is captivating because he’s almost St Francis, who was almost Jesus. He recognises and abandons the emptiness of the world, of the self. But in chasing his self out, he is still stuck chasing his self.

Why? Because he believes God doesn’t care about him; his self is all he has. There is nothing beyond his self to be reached.

But St Francis, (and even more truly, Jesus) can totally destroy his self and be free, because the destruction of his self, through all his mad penances and lifestyle, is in the love of God. The falsehood of the self that Tyler Durden could see so clearly, can only be destroyed by the Truth that is God.

God bless you!

Don’t be the best version of yourself

‘Just try to be the best version of yourself.’

No thank you. I’d rather try to just be me.

I don’t want to be any “version” of myself. They’re fake, every last one of them. I’d know – I created them. They’re just different masks I wear for different people.

And what on earth does it mean by “best”? Whose standard am I using? Who am I supposed to please? Others? Myself? God???

The simple truth is, God doesn’t love “the best version of me” – the “me” that acts “best”, and no one else does either. No one ever could. You can’t love a dead thing.

He loves me. Not this or that version of me. He loves me, with all my wounds and all my weaknesses. I have nothing to hide, even if I could.

Not that I shouldn’t improve and grow. But I can’t do that by pretending. The only way to truly grow, is to live in God’s love, being stripped of my illusions and defenses, and made more truly me. And this, this death to my selves, is to be made into Christ. ‘It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.’

God bless you!

[P.S. One more issue with this phrase, is that it suggests there is one best version, and you can’t possibly better it. If there is a “best version”, there is a limit. And it doesn’t imply that the “best version” is all that great. God bless!]