Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Humility and Helplessness

I was at a conference last week where the speaker referenced a book called Learned Helplessness. It was part of a talk on making people happy by giving them control. Apparently, the theory behind the book is that as people repeatedly experience situations where they lack control, they eventually develop a sort of personality disorder where they expect to have no control and become demoralized. And this is reversed by giving people little bits control.

Then this weekend, I watched Rent. If you've seen this movie, you know that several of the characters are struggling with helplessness. The HIV-positive song writer sang a song about glory. He wanted to write one great song to bring him glory before he died.

So often our hope is misplaced. I think the Buddhists are right that suffering arises from desire. But I think Jesus has a better solution than Buddha. Buddha tells us to give up our desires. Jesus tells us to trust in God. Neither leaves room to strive for glory.

The problem here is leaning humility and contentment without dehumanizing and bowing to the status quo, to give up ambition but maintain hope.

2 comments:

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I know someone who seems to fit the profile of a person with a personality disorder due to continual lack of control, someone who has been in various abusive and neglected situations all her life. Sad. She can only see herself as a victum. But she victumizes those around her by repeating the stories. Ad nauseum.

We attend the same church. I try to be her friend. It is hard.

Andy said...

I think the Gospel offers the way out, but I'm sure it's hard to hear.

There's a tension here. We're told not to rely on ourselves, but there's clearly a powerful message that God's lifts up the lowly.