Jacob (phatjew) wrote in relobj,

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Passive Children of G-d

From The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. Pages 108-109.

Self-esteem is not a gift I can receive from someone else. It is generated from within. To wait passively for something to happen that will raise my self-esteem is to sentence myself to a life of frustration.

Once when I was lecturing to a group of psychotherapists on the six pillars of self-esteem, one of them asked me, "Why do you put your emphasis on what the individual must do to grow in self-esteem? Isn't the source of self-esteem the fact that we are children of G-d?" I have encountered this question a number of times.

Whether one believes in a G-d, and whether one believes we are G-d's children, is irrelevant to the issue of what self-esteem requires. Let us imagine that there is a G-d and taht we are [His] children. In this respect, then, we are all equal. Does it follow that everyone is or should be equal in self-esteem, regardless of whether anyone lives consciously or unconsciously. responsibly or irresponsibly, honestly or dishonestly? Earlier in this book we saw that this is impossible. There is no way for our mind to avoid registering the choices that we make in the way we operate and no way for our sense of self to remain unaffected. If we are children of G-d, the question reamins: What are we going to do about it? What are we going to make of it? Will we honor our gifts or betray them? If we betray ourselves and our powers, if we live mindlessly, purposelessly, and without integrity, can we buy our way out, can we acquire self-esteem, by claiming to be G-d's relatives? Do we imagine we can thus relieve ourselves of personal responsibility?

When people lack healthy self-esteem, they often identify self-esteem with being "loved. If they did not feel loves by their families, sometimes they comfort themselves with the thought that G-d loves them, and they try to tie their self-esteem to this idea. With the best will in the world, how can we understand this strategy except as a manifestation of passivity?

I do not believe we are intended to remain dependent children. I believe we are itneded to grow into adults, which means to become responsible for ourselves-to become self-supporting psychologically as well as financially. Whatever role a belief in G-d may play in our lives, surely it is not to justify a default on consciousness, responsibility, and integrity.

I found this to be strangely reminiscent of Rav Soloveitchik's work. Specifically, From Halakhic Man pages 126-128.

Man, at times, exists solely by virtue of the species, by virtue of the fact that he was born a member of that species, and its general form is engraved upon him. He exists solely on account of his participation in the idea of the universal. He is just a member of the species "man," an image of the universal. He is just one more example of the species image in its ongoing morphological process (in the Aristotelian sense of the term). He himself, however, has never done anything that could serve to legitimate his existence as an individual. His soul, his spirit, his entire being, all are grounded in the realm of the universal. His roots lie deep in the soil of faceless mediocrity; his growth takes place solely within the public domain. He has no stature of his own, no original, individual, personal profile. He has never created anything, never brought into being anything new, never accomplished anything. He is receptive, passive, a spiritual parasite. He is wholly under the influence of other people and their views. Never has he sought to render an accounting, either of himself or of the world; never has he examined himself, his relationship to G-d and his fellow man. He lives unnoticed and dies unmourned. Like a fleeting cloud, a shadow, he passes through life and is gone. He bequeaths nothing to future generations, but dies without leaving a trace of his having lived. Empty-handed he goes to the grave, bereft of mitzvah performances, good deeds, and meritorious acts, for while living he lacked any sense of historical responsibility and was totally wanting in any ethical passion. He was born involuntarily, and it is for this reason and this reason alone that he, involuntarily, lives out his life (a life which, paradoxically, he has "chosen"!) until he dies involuntarily. This is man as the random example of the biological species.

But there is another man, one who does not require the assistance of others, who does not need the support of the species to legitimate his existence. Such a man is no longer a prisoner of time but is his own master. He exists not by virtue of the species, but solely on account of his own individual worth. His life is replete with creation and renewal, cognition and profound understanding. He lives not on account of his having been born but for the sake of life itself and so that he may merit thereby the life in the world to come. He recognizes the destiny that is his, his obligation and task in life. He understand full well the dualism running through his being and choice which has been entrusted him. He knows that there are two paths before him and that whichever he shall choose, there he must go. He is not passive but active. His personality is not characterized by receptivity but by spontaneity. He does not simply abandon himself to the rule of the species but blazes his own individual trail. Moreover, he, as an individual, influences the many. His whole existence, like some enchanted stream, rushes ever onward to distant magical regions. He is dynamic, not static, does not remain at rest but moves forward in an ever-ascending climb. For indeed, it is the living G-d for whome he pines and longs. This is the man of G-d.

I guess, also, the note on religion as a refuge.
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