I must have saved this Paul Claudel quotation on a sticky note because it hit home. It expresses pithily a human tendency I recognize all too well.
Over here he made a pile of what he had had and lost. Over there a pile of what he was owed. Then a pile of what he possessed and a pile of what he desired. After measuring them, he added a pile of what he deserved and put it beside the others. Then came the pile of what was his by rights, the pile of what he had failed to achieve, the pile of what he had been cheated out of, the pile of what had been stolen. His calculations took years. In the beginning he had had many gifts, different roads his life could take, now his calculations took all his attention—what he had, what others had, what he should have—all the oughts and might-have-beens. It made its own pile.
To read it is to feel in one's gut the great spiritual truth that only those who lose their lives can be saved.
On the other hand, I'm guessing I never used it in a post, because something in me revolts a little when I read it. Maybe I find it too merciless. It condemns without offering consolation. Don't those who are mired in egotism also deserve pity and need help?
Often, I think, self-absorption is as much an affliction as a fault. It is a function of wounds of unlove and negation received in childhood. To be able to transcend oneself and one's ego belongs to our dignity as persons, but it is also an achievement of grace and freedom—the freedom of others as well as our own.
In the New Year, when I feel myself sinking into bitterness, selfishness and recrimination, rather than despising myself, I will imitate Peter and cry out, "Lord, save me!"