I was recently reviewing some notes I took on a book I read a long time ago: Eric Hoffer’s,TheTrue Believer. There was a line in the notes that had given me particular pause over the last few days. The line is: “The vanity of the selfless is boundless.” Over the years the theme of self and selflessness has dominated my letters to You. I see indulging my self and catering to its whims as the prime obstacle to union with You. Consequently I have become increasingly more conscious of de-emphasizing me, of denying my selfishness, and of becoming more and more selfless in order to remove what I perceive as the primary obstacles on a path toward You. But the quote from Hoffer has made me think that even in this endeavor there may be too much vanity tainting and even obliterating the effort.
What we wish to communicate of ourselves is failed miserably by words. Yet, both what we honestly think of ourselves and what we think others think of us are framed in limp and wobbly words. If I were to write down how I honestly think others perceive me I would use such words as: selfish, manipulative, hypocritical, arrogant, inflexible, impatient, cynical, and closed-minded. But the words I might use in describing my perception of myself would be: flawed but trying, carrying excess baggage but attempting to get rid of it, weak but seeking strength, selfish but trying to learn how to love. Put into words I cannot deny the faults and failures others, as well as I, perceive about me. But when I look at the differences between the two I see that in my perception of myself the word “but” springs prominently to my perception. I perceive all of these faults and failings in myselfBUT I also perceive some effort in trying to erase them. Unfortunately, when reflected upon, I can see an inherent vanity hidden in each of these “buts.” It’s the vanity of: ‘Yah, I have my faults but by trying to overcome them I’m really OK. My effort keeps me afloat. If I believe this about my own effort then vanity has truly seized me.
The only thing I can rest trustingly in is the hope of the action of Your grace to bring me to You. I was born for You and You will have me if I but let You. Others’ perceptions of me, and even my own, are framed in words that suggest a role – a vain role – in the destiny of my being.