A Catholic Monthly Magazine


Bill Farrelly

by Bill Farrelly

DOES anyone else share this problem?

Often, when I do the right thing – as opposed to what I would much rather do – I am very conscious of my behaviour. Worse, the awareness will frequently revisit me.

I would prefer, and indeed I have petitioned my Maker in this regard, to be unconscious of my  ‘chivalry’ but time and again up pops Mr Dogood to pat me on the back.

I no longer see this issue as a reflection of my vanity though I have admitted in the past that this demon also visits me uninvited.

Therefore, as Professor Julius Sumner Miller postulated all those years ago, “Why is it so?”

It’s small comfort, but I suspect I may not be alone. Some time ago I went to confession and –  feeling the need to add to the meagre list (yes I know how that sounds)  – it suddenly occurred to me to add: “And, Father, I often struggle with humility.”

What a delight when I heard his rejoinder: “Welcome to the club!”

I see myself  as neither a proud man nor a humble one. But there are numerous occasions when I feel humble before God and his creation. And, yes, I feel humble in the presence of human greatness but that is different, it seems to me, from the kind of humility that is often held in such high esteem by my religious betters.

What to do about it? This does not seem fair, after all. I don’t want these feelings of self-satisfaction – in fact they are not at all satisfying.

And that’s when the penny dropped: they are most definitely not satisfying, therefore they are not, as I had initially feared, a reflection of my pride. The solution, I’ve decided, is to hand them  to God with a little note attached that says: “I don’t want these, nor the discomfort they cause me. However, I will happily tolerate the discomfort for you.”

And, bingo, it works. Although I still sometimes catch myself basking in the reflection of some act of decency, I don’t agonise any more; I just hand it on.

Vanity Poster, by Donnamaria

Vanity Poster, by Donnamaria

Looking glassIt has occurred to me that perhaps the reason I am haunted on occasion by Mr Dogood is that for several decades, in some areas of my life, I was quite selfish and quite intolerant. I was something of a prat. When I finally got my act together, perhaps my self, as opposed to myself, overcompensated.

There are just two problems with all of this. As I read back over what I have written, the exercise itself sounds rather self-congratulatory. As well, I now remember something I did a few months ago that, while it gave me both joy and pain, was a classic example of the kind of thing I am trying to forget. On the other hand, till now I had forgotten.

Could that memory now please exit stage left and not return. Some encores are quite uncalled for.

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