The ritual early Sunday morning at Alexander Hall, Princeton Theological Seminary Princeton, N.J. was for us seminarians to get ready to depart for our field education experience serving local area churches as a ministry intern. Most of my colleagues had to drive to area churches in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania. I had the luxury of being able to walk to my church Christ-Congregation in Princeton.
I remember early one Sunday morning during winter, I was standing at the mirror in the Men's bathroom in my old bathrobe shaving. Next thing I knew I heard my friend John Moody, enter and he started boisterously singing the following ( this was a parody of a beloved hymn made famous by George Beverly Shea and its use at Billy Graham Crusades )
" My name is wonderful,
My name is wonderful "
With that, it was all I could do to control myself from cutting myself shaving. John was hilarious and he uncannily hit upon the need to feel great and powerful that can be exhibited not only by clergy but my other sections of the society.
Garrison Keillor, of course, has always given his signature ending on " the News from Lake Wobegon " with:
" And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong and where all of the men are good looking and where the children are above average. "
Who wants to be average ? On my way to work every day, I do pass several signs in several upscale neighborhoods that advertise tutoring for the SAT exam. This is the season where anxious high school students are awaiting to hear about college admissions or they are belatedly submitting their applications to schools of higher learning.
The drive to succeed is great. A lot of people understandably want to be smarter, quicker and more good-looking. As one of my former supervisors use to say:
" Yes, I hire beautiful people. "
What happens to people who exhibit humility or modesty in their endeavors ? Is humility or modesty even recognized as being desirable virtues any more ? Even a current Presidential candidate can't resist reminding everyone how great he is and what terrific achievements will be accomplished by him.
An article not too long ago observed:
It's a real-life example of a lab study conducted by Brad Bushman and Roy Baumeister: Students were told that another participant had proclaimed that their essay was "the worst I've ever read." Those who scored high in narcissism then took their revenge by acting aggressively against the person who insulted them. Self-esteem didn't predict who would be more aggressive after an insult, but narcissism did. Keith Campbell and I later found that if the insult was a social rejection, narcissists were also aggressive toward an innocent person--very similar to the shooting and other mass killings such as Columbine and Virginia Tech. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.
So, " my name is wonderful " may not always be accurate nor effective.
We need to remind ourselves that humans are capable of doing great good and are also capable of doing great harm. I have found that people who strive to be touched " by the better angels of our nature " ( Abraham Lincoln ) are guided by emotional intelligence that informs both strengths and weaknesses. They are also guided by love and charity.
How great we are can be the result of how we care and by what we do for others.
May it be so.