Divine Beauty

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Letblogging Day 23- Ego

The Awful Truth about the Bear

"For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death." 2 Corinthians 7:10 (RSV-2CE) The note to the Didache Bible from Ignatius Press (with notes based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, plus apologetic resources) warns, "worldly grief leads to despair and loss of faith and hope."

Everything the Bear does smells of pride. It is the ripe stench of pretending to do something for God, while being secretly motivated by ego.

Lentblogging is a great example of this (as might be, for all the Bear knows, Catholic blogging in general; bloggers are mostly smart people, who write well and have something to say, so that's not a condemnation, just speculation). Committing to doing something every day for 40 days is a pretty big deal for a Bear of irregular habits, for a Bear whose energy is unevenly distributed throughout the month.

Daily Lentblogging was Bear's commitment as part of his Lenten bona opera. It was supposed to be an edifying gift to his readers. He would share his own Lenten observations and maybe come at some things from a different direction than other writers. He would talk about different things or some of the same things  in a different way than he did in his Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans. It was an approved discipline in service to God.

It's All About the Bear

If that is the case, why is the Bear's first thought about himself? Why does he want to apologize to you, to explain why he failed to post something every day recently? He has some good reasons, you see. It would make him feel better to lay them out so everyone would go, "aw, poor Bear," and then we could all move forward.

The answer is easy. It is because this ephemeris, like everything the Bear does, is tainted by his ego. (Of course, part of this ego trip is imagining anyone cares whether he misses a day here and there.)

Shame versus Contrition

Another example is confession. When Bear commits a sin, he feels shame. That does motivate him to go to confession, sometimes, but what kind of confession does that make? Shame is a wound to his pride. He thought he was better than that and knows that if others learned of his sin, they might think less of him. Shame is a pretty miserable feeling. Confession can bring some psychological relief.

And, yet, what does shame have to do with anything? Contrition is something different. It is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1451) as: "a sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with a resolution not to sin again." (Citing Council of Trent, 1551). Also, "when it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is 'perfect' (contrition of charity)." (CCC 1452).

Deal with your shame with your therapist and pray for the grace of contrition, but at least recognize the difference.

The Grace of Mixed Motives

However, even imperfect contrition is a gift that may get you to the sacrament of confession and absolution. (See CCC 1453).

Maybe you can give a moment today to wonder if you have mixed motives for your religious work. At the same time, however, remember that mixed motives are better than no motives at all for Bears- and Bearish Humans.

This Buddy Miller song (from Universal House of Prayer album) seems appropriate.


  1. Keep up your good work Bear. I liked your shame/contrition comparison. On going to a shrink to share your shame he might very well tell you that you should not be ashamed because what you think is bad is actually good. Some modern minded priests might well say the same thing.

    Humility is what we should all strive for. No one can progress spiritually without it. I recommend reading little by little, over and over the book 'Humility of Heart' by Fr.Cajetan Mary Bergamo, $5.65 at Amazon.

  2. This describes me also, except that I don't blog. I decided decades ago that doing something good for mixed motives at least results in something good being done, even if I deserve no merit for it.

    The Beaver

  3. you get it Bear...and your penance or maybe mortification is letting readers comment.
    please carry on. Persevere. We are all in the same ego boat.

  4. Well, Great Bear, we are not Buddhists, who seeks to annialate the self, but Catholics who seek to conform the self to the incarnate Logos -- not simply the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in His Divinity, but rather the Son in His incarnate nature -- divine and human.

    In a certain sense, it is all about the Bear -- for if all was well in the world, save Great Bear, the Son would have still come just for you.

    Owl digresses, as Owl understands pride all to well, for who is to say that an owl has anything worthwhile to say to a bear? Nonetheless, Owl still hoots in the night, "The Logos is Incarnate and has made dust weigh something on the Scales an has given voice to dust to sing in the Choirs of Angels."

    1. There is a continuum. Bear could hide behind a paywall and tickle the ears of the masses in a most cynical way, or write only to please himself. Part of Lentblogging is the occasional confession, not showboating, but hoping to draw others into the same realizations. The difference between shame and contrition might be obvious to Owl, but it was not to the Bear until fairly recently.

      And, the relation between ego to spiritual practice is an ancient theme. Ego is considered dangerous to the spiritual life, especially one's spiritual practices, which is why religious communities require disciplines to be approved.

      The Bear realizes his ego in everything he does. Ideally, he would do everything for the glory of God. And, yet, he knew his traffic. He is disappointed when there are no comments. In other words, he sort of keeps score, when it is not really necessary. He knows blogging about Lent is going to reduce his traffic, and blogging about some scandal will increase it.

      Of course, he does not expect to eradicate his ego. It's good to be aware of it though. Blogging can also provide opportunities for mortification. We may not be Buddhists, but mortification is a good thing.

    2. All too true, though keep in mind that conforming one's ego is not the same thing as loosing one's ego. Humans mortify the flesh not to destroy the flesh, but rather to regain control over it as well as to offer reparations. You are right that the Ancients speed volumes on this subject but the do not mean that the diminishment of self is to be the annihilation of self. The self, the ego, survive theosis.

      As for blogging, it IS a soap-box that Great Bear stands on. Speak in charity with magnanimity and with courage. Be prudent and temperate, but above all be Bear, for as such Christ created you. Not all take vows of silence and retreat into the desert. Some are juggling bears, and they have their importance in this grand story.

      But as for worrying about lack of comments...well now really? ;-p But in seriousness consider consider that each post might very well be the last one that a reader reads before they pass on. These posts and these comments are but brief sparks, souls gathering around circus ring to be edified and entertained, for a while. Light fireflies gathering, some go, some arrive, all eventually blink out.

      In this time of Lent, where we ponder that we all are but dust slowly falling back into the earth, remember that your commentators are as well, even the great many of them that do not comment. We are all but passing by but it is our great pleasure to find comradery with a bear, for a while.

      A silent a still jury box doesn't mean that they are not intently following your argument. A silent and still comment box doesn't mean that your readership is not with you.


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