Some priggish little clerk will say, “I have reason to congratulate myself that I am a civilized person, and not so bloodthirsty as the mad mullah.” Somebody ought to say to him, “a really good man would be less bloodthirsty than the mullah. But you are less bloodthirsty, not because you are more of a good man, but because you are a great deal less of a man. You are not bloodthirsty, not because you would spare your enemy, but because you would run away from him.”
Or again, some Puritan with a sullen type of piety would say, “I have reason to congratulate myself that I do not worship graven images like the old heathen Greeks.” And again somebody ought to say to him, “the best religion may not worship graven images, because it may seem beyond them. But if you do not worship graven images, it is only because you are mentally and morally quite incapable of graving them. True religion, perhaps, is above idolatry. But you are below idolatry. You are not holy enough yet to worship a lump of stone.”
GK Chesterton I read this last weekend and was taken by the ability we have to pat ourselves on the back for what we have not done, and I wonder what that says about us when what we have not done, our acts of omission, are our greatest feats. And I ask of I have done anything of merit? If instead of doing things that are significant I prefer describe the reasons that they remain undone.
It seems that we can outline our failures as deeds not done, and then by comparing these un-done tasks with steps poorly taken we can relax into the knowledge that doing nothing is better than doing evil. But really approaching something significant is our calling and absent this I suspect we are failures all. As for me, I am better than the mad mullah, and have never worshipped like the godless Greeks.