The Paradox of Conscientiousness

Stabbing Westward released a song several years ago called Save Yourself.” Basic premise of the song is “I cannot save you/I can’t even save myself.” Very depressing, totally rocks, some bad language.

I loved that song.

Today I thought about it because of a sermon preached by Scott at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Scott preached on the dangers of being too conscientious.

People who are conscientious try to do the right thing. That’s nice. We should all try to do what is right. But Scott gave warnings about carrying it too far.

First, he pointed out that trying to be conscientious puts us at the mercy of those who would prey on us  by manipulating our urge to do what is right. Without discernment, and I would add a strong sense of self-trust, we may find it difficult to resist doing things that are actually wrong, silly, or at least unnecessary because someone has told us those things are the right things to do. But that’s a subject for another blog.

My interest in the sermon right now is in Scott’s other point: that being too conscientious is unhealthy and tantamount to atheism.

“If I don’t do it, no one will.”

“If I don’t do it right now, it will never happen.”

“I am the only one who can fix/change/preserve this.”

“It is up to me to make this work.”

“I am responsible for this situation and for finding the solutions.”

And so on and so forth, a string of guilt, burdens, hopelessness and despair. Being too conscientious drags the soul down into a sea of futility and fear.

As Paul implied after the service, I needed to hear this one.

The Father is the Creator, not I. The Son is the Redeemer, not I. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, not I.

Although I hurt for others, people I know and people I don’t, I cannot in, of and by myself, make their lives perfect. Although I see situations that are horrendous, I do not have the ability nor the power to correct them. Although I want to wrap my arms around those who hurt and protect them from pain and danger, I do not have the strength nor the capacity to shield them.

I wish I could. I wish that with one word I could change the world to paradise. But that is not my role. My role is simply to do what I can, as I can, and leave the rest to God.

And sometimes my role is to close my eyes and shut the hell up.

John Peters tells me that the root of discontent is fear. I can see that. My fear is that someone will get hurt, something bad will happen, a friend will lose something precious or fail to find something wonderful, all because I did not do enough.

I am apparently conceited enough to think that I, by myself, can turn the tide of events and make the world a paradise – at least for one or two people.

How silly. How futile. How draining.

It’s time to give up. It’s time to back off and chill out. Time to stop losing sleep over other people, especially when they are not losing sleep over themselves. Time to stop dispersing my energy across too many areas by trying to fix all the world’s problems at once. Time to start picking battles and leaving the war strategy to Someone Else.

But not, I think, time to stop loving or caring. Just time to put the worries of the world into other, bigger, more capable hands.

I cannot save anyone. I cannot even save myself.

That role is saved solely for God.


~ by gypsyjonga on June 7, 2009.

2 Responses to “The Paradox of Conscientiousness”

  1. I cannot save anyone. I cannot even save myself.

    That role is saved solely for God.

    very well put.. i shall write something on my blog in reference, because I was moved;)

    My lady i think you have discovered the purposes of a blog.

    Discover, movement, excitement, entertainment, self-fulfilling

  2. The most powerful and subtle thing the Buddha did was “hold his seat.” When Mara visited him with storms, illusions and finally self doubt saying who are you to be so idealistic, feel yourself self empowered, he simply reached foward and touched the ground. He didn’t respond with verbal defense or attack, he simply had to “be” himself. We don’t have to go to extemes to change the world. Being has more power than words and sometimes even actions. We learn that we shouldn’t lose our seat to those that show us hate, but we shouldn’t lose ourselves to those who would take all the good either.
    I never really thought of faith in this aspect. I’m glad we heard his sermon. I like how you framed that it’s time to stop putting energy into people that don’t take care of themselves, but not to stop loving or caring. That’s being true to yourself; the amazing, caring and intelligent person you are and you don’t have to prove it or give it away for it to be exist, it just is.

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