Evening with Henri Nouwen

It is not difficult to see that, in our particular world, we all have a strong desire to accomplish something. Some us think in terms of great dramatic changes in the structure of society. Others want at least to build a house, write a book, invent a machine, or win a trophy. And some of us seem to be content when we just do something worthwhile for someone. But practically all of us think about ourselves in terms of our contribution to life. And when we have become old, much of our feelings of happiness or sadness depend on our evaluation of the part we played in giving shape to our world and its history. As Christians, we even feel a special call to do something good for someone: give advice, comfort, cast out a devil or two, and maybe even preach the good news from place to place.

But although the desire to be useful can be a sign of mental and spiritual health in our goal-oriented society, it can also become the source of a paralyzing lack of self-esteem. More often than not, we not only desire to do meaningful things, but we often make the results of our work the criteria of our self-esteem. And then we not only have success, we become our successes….Then we become what the world makes us.

-Nouwen from “Out of Solitude”

This quote reminded me of my last post and perhaps gave some further semblance to the idea of our cultures attempts to be “somebody”. Hopefully it helped frame and give form to that abstract conceptualization.


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