“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good
we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
– William Shakespeare
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are referred to in Christian teachings as the “seven deadly sins.” These, to the Roman Catholics, are the cardinal sins. If a person commits any of them, he is believed to be cut off from God’s grace.
Actually, the Bible does not specifically mention the concept “seven deadly sins.” But in Galatians 5: 16-19, fifteen acts of the sinful nature are identified – sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. Perhaps St. Gregory the Great, during his reign as Pope (590 – 640 AD), wanting to be concise, shortened that long list of capital vices.
All Christian faithful are being called upon to not commit those acts of the flesh. St Paul said that believers are free but he implored them not to use their freedom to indulge the flesh. That, definitely, is easier said than done.
I think St. Paul (who wrote the Galatians) and St. Gregory may have overlooked another human frailty that should have been added to the list of sins. There exists another spiritual infirmity that I believe should be considered as equally harmful as any of the deadly sins. It’s called self-doubt.
My proposition (that self-doubt be classified also as sin) may not be considered seriously. Many might even say it’s preposterous.
Is self-doubt just an ordinary flaw in a person’s character? Is it really a bit too much to consider it a sin? Is it not a serious offense – something that when committed could ruin a person’s life?
Allow me to argue my assertion that self-doubt is a sin. For those who do not believe in the concept of religion, think of self-doubt not as a sin but an injury you inflict upon yourselves.
In this article, we will define self-doubt, strictly, as “the feeling of not having confidence in yourself or your abilities.” The concept of doubt being discussed here does not refer to that philosophical function “to cast doubt.”
The definition above (the one before the disambiguation) makes self-doubt sound harmless – not something immoral or demonic that would make the moralists and bible scholars (both past and present) look at it as a sin. That’s probably the reason no religious movement, Christianity included, classified such human inadequacy as a sin. You might also refuse to accept that it is an injury you inflict upon yourself.
Self-doubt, however, is not as simple as it seems. This impotence of the human spirit has grave consequences not only to the person having it but to the family where he belongs and to the society where he lives. A person plagued by it will be less-productive or not productive at all and is definitely not going to contribute anything to his family and society.
In arguing that self-doubt is a sin (or a self-inflicted injury) it is important to review the nature of sin from a philosophical standpoint.
“Sin is said to be a moral evil” (O’Neil, 1912). This brings us to another question – what is evil? St. Thomas defines the word (evil) as a privation of form or order or due measure. “Evil implies a deficiency in perfection.”
Self-doubt is clearly an imperfection. It indicates the absence of confidence which is considered essential for a person’s well-being and is a requirement in the pursuit of what Abraham Maslow refers to in Psychology as “self-actualization” or achieving one’s full potential. Sin is a diversion from the perceived ideal order of human living (Hyde, 2018). A person doubting his capabilities veers away from becoming the best that they can be and reduces their chance of living life to the fullest.
It could be argued that there are a lot of other negative human characters that may indicate imperfections. But none is as damaging to the person as self-doubt. Something is wrong with a person if he lacks confidence and has a very low (or no) feeling of self-worth. These are conditions that may lead to failure and unhappiness.
In addition, philosophical or moral sin is a human act not in agreement with rational nature and right reason. (Hyde, 2018).
It is not considered reasonable to doubt one’s capabilities. It is a person’s moral obligation to believe in themselves. It is not right to think one would fail even without really trying. A person needs to have faith not only in God (if he happens to believe in one) but also in themselves.
Allowing self-doubt to reign is depriving the self of discovering one’s potentials. When a person decides to doubt themselves, they eradicate their ability to fulfill their goals and to achieve their dreams.
Failures are indeed impossible not to happen. But even if one fails in several attempts to succeed they should decide not to stop trying. There’s a long list of famous personalities (like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford) who had their share of failures but never gave up.
But is self-doubt a self-inflicted injury?
“Sin, also, wounds the nature of man.” This is what the Catholic teachings assert.
“Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body, and soul. It is one of the major obstacles to living the life that people truly deserve. This unhealthy food for the soul drags down a person’s spirit, crushes his ambitions, and prevents him from achieving all that he can (Thalk, 2013).
Doubt impedes a person’s development. It is the biggest roadblock to self-actualization. Self-doubt prevents people from becoming the best they could be, from realizing their full potentials, and from achieving their dreams. Shakespeare stressed, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Doubt could possibly kill more dreams than failure ever did.
Some degree of self-doubt is generally held to be normal. It can be helpful in some cases, as it often leads to introspection and enhanced performance. But it may require medical help when it becomes debilitating, affects daily function, or impedes performance at work or school (Self-doubt, n.d.).
There’s no immorality committed when one doubts himself. Why should it be then considered a sin?
This brings me to the last among my arguments to convince you that self-doubt is a sin.
A sin may either be a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Sins of commission are sins we commit by doing something we shouldn’t do and sins of omission are sins we commit by not doing something (Sins of Commission vs Sins of Omission, 2015). The seven deadly sins are all sins of commission except sloth.
Sloth – extreme laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents – is considered a sin of omission. I think self-doubt belongs to that category. If sloth made it to the list of the deadly sins, self-doubt should be there also.
“Self-doubt,” is just as damaging (perhaps more damaging) to a person than this sin called “sloth.” Actually, in some instances, a person’s failure to use his innate talents starts with his inability to believe what he is capable of doing.
I hope that the arguments I presented above about self-doubt are convincing enough that from this point on you would move as far away from it as possible.
Conquer your self-doubt and start to nurture self-belief which I think is the key component of the value system of the few men and women who scaled the heights of success.
Hyde, J. (2018). The book of sin: How to Save the World, UK: Soul Rocks Books
O’Neil, A.C. (1912). Sin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 24, 2020 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm
Self-Doubt (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gootherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-doubt/
Sins of commission vs sins of omission (2015) Retrieved from https://www.revelation.co/2015/07/21/sins-of-commission-vs-sins-of omission/
Thalk, C. (2013). Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body and soul. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/self-doubt_b_2960936
One of my favorite poems is W.E. Henley’s “Invictus.” I read it for the first time in my literature class way back in college. That was the time when I started to ask a lot of questions about many things – not the way a curious child would but the way a young adult searching for a personal identity ought to. The poem impressed upon me a strong belief. It created a mind-set, a value that helped shaped who I am now – that a person is in-charge of his own destiny. That whatever (or whoever) a person becomes is the sum total of all the decisions he makes.
For me, the day a person says “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” is the day that he is embracing personal accountability. Thenceforth he becomes responsible for his words, thoughts, and actions and whatever decisions he makes he ought to own them. If he succeeds and becomes happy as a result of his decisions he will take the full credit and benefits. Conversely, should he fail, should he not succeed in his boldness to take on the challenges of life refusing help from anyone, he knows there’s nobody to blame, not even himself. He acknowledges that being self-sufficient is not a fault. Recognizing that each person has his own mountain to climb and that it is wrong to become an additional burden to anybody is a virtue, not a fault.
It is the person who makes himself a burden to his fellowmen that should be faulted. He should be faulted for not making himself personally accountable for his own life. He should be faulted for thinking that it is the responsibility of his fellowmen to help him. Yes, “no man is an island” but each person should think that nobody could force anyone to offer help. Helping is something that nobody could demand from anyone. It flows naturally from the generosity of a pure heart.
Believe that people know when somebody really needs help. The good-hearted among them would definitely offer a hand. However, they are also wise, they are capable of determining if the problems a person is facing resulted from his unwillingness to embrace personal accountability. They know if a person is stuck in a hole dug by his own laziness and vices. They know that that person does not deserve help. Never assume that generous people are dumb. No person should push himself to the edge because of his irresponsibility thinking that somebody would hold his hand before he falls to the bottom of regrets. Nobody might and he would come crashing down to his certain demise.
The person who acknowledges personal accountability blames neither himself nor anyone when he fails in his undertakings. Instead of falling into the deadly trap of the blame game, he tries to figure out what went wrong and learn from his mistakes. He considers failures as pathways to attainment. He won’t stop until he succeeds, no matter how many times he fails.
On the other hand, a person without it (personal accountability) blames not himself but others for all his failures. For whatever misfortunes he encounters it is always someone else’s fault. When he fails in his relationships, the other party is to be blamed for failing to satisfy the standards he set. When he resigns from his job, it’s because his co-workers and his boss suck. When he could not find a new job, he blames the government. Even for simple matters like coming late for an appointment he would put the blame on someone or something else – like the traffic and the weather.
Heaven forbid that he also blames his parents for their being poor (if his parents are) and their being unable to leave a fortune he could inherit. Heaven forbid that he blames his siblings and relatives, branding them selfish for not sharing their blessings to him.
The list of people and things he blames for his bad luck and adversities is so long but has forgotten to put himself on top of it.
It is not difficult to identify a person who is allergic to personal accountability. He is the one who whines at everything and whinges every time. He is never satisfied. His standards of excellence are so high that it seems none of the geniuses, past or present, could ever earn his approval.
For the person who lacks personal accountability there is always something wrong. The problem is he offers no solution to the wrongs and ills he sees. Compounding the dilemma is his strong sense of entitlement feeling that people around him should find a solution to his own problems. He is not satisfied not helping find solutions to problems, he also wants others to solve his own.
It is not obligatory for any person to offer solutions to all the wrongs and ills – to fight all evils. Voluntarism is a rare virtue. And if you’re not that somebody with a strong sense of personal accountability who would come forward to resolve the problems, if you could not offer a solution to the problems, please don’t add up to the problem. Be not the problem.
At least, each person is being called upon to tread the path of self-sufficiency. Take care of you own problems and don’t bother others for them, directly or indirectly. Self-sufficiency is the starting point to the journey to personal accountability.
Kapag ba late kang dumating sa trabaho, sa isang okasyon, oh sa klase, kanino mo ibinubunton ang sisi? Siyempre pa eh ‘di sa walang kamalay-malay na traffic. Kapag masama ang panahon at maulan, baha naman ang may sala kaya hindi ka sumipot sa takdang oras. Sa mga sumunod na pagkakataon na na-late ka nanaman, dahil gasgas na ang dahilang “Traffic eh!” at hindi naman umuulan para sabihin mong “Baha kasi!” eh ang sinisi mo naman ay ang alarm clock – hindi gumana. Tama ba?
Noong nagkahiwalay kayo ng karelasyon mo o nagkagalit kayo ng kamag-anak, kaybigan, o kapitbahay mo, sino ang may kasalanan? Eh di siyempre hindi ikaw. Halos nakakatiyak akong sa kabilang partido mo ibinunton ang sisi. Kesyo masama ang ugali niya o nila, hindi marunong makisama, walang pinag-aralan, at bastos.
Ang punto eh hindi ka nauubusan ng pagbubuntunan ng sisi. Napakahaba kaya ng listahan mo ng mga dapat sisihin. Basta may nangyaring hindi maganda sa buhay mo o may pangyayaring hindi sumasangayon sa iyong kagustuhan, eh pilit mong hahanapin kung sino ang dapat managot kung bakit nagkaganoon?
Naalaala ko tuloy ang kuwento ni Jim Rohn, isang kilalang personalidad sa larangan ng “personal growth and development”. Isang araw daw eh tinanong siya ng kanyang mentor na si Earl Shoaf, “Jim, curious lang ako, bakit hanggang ngayon eh parang hindi ka pa umaasenso?” Para daw huwag naman siyang magmukhang parang walang kadiska-diskarte sa buhay, ang ginawa ni Jim eh inilista niya sa isang papel ang mga may kagagawan kung bakit hindi niya maiangat ang kanyang kalagayan sa buhay.
Heto ang mga isinulat ni Jim Rohn sa kanyang listahan – pamahalaan, ekonomiya, panahon, traffic, pamamalakad ng kumpanya nila, mga walang kwentang kamag-anak at kapitbahay, at mga taong nakapaligid sa kanya.
Sino ang madalas sinisisi ng mga taong hindi makahanap ng trabaho? Eh ‘di siyempre ang pamahalaan. Tungkulin daw ng mga nasa poder ng kapangyarihan na tiyakin na ang mga mamamayan ay magkaroon ng oportunidad na makapagtrabaho.
Tama naman sila. Pero meron bang bansa sa alin mang bahagi ng mundo na kayang bigyan ang bawat mamamayan nila ng trabaho? Meron bang bansa na kung saan ang mga pribadong kumpanya at negosyo, maliit man o malaki, ay kayang i-hire ang lahat ng gustong magtrabaho?
Sa pagkakaalam ko’y wala. Mahirap tanggapin pero iyan ang katotohanan.
Balikan natin ang uapan nina Jim Rohn at Earl Shoaf.
Matapos daw basahin ni Jim ang listahan ng kung sino (at ano) ang dapat sisihin kung bakit hindi siya umaasenso eh tinanong siya ni Earl – “Bakit wala ang pangalan mo sa listahan?” Ang ibig sabihin ni Earl ay bakit tila yata sa hindi pag-angat sa buhay ni Jim noong panahong iyon eh ni katiting eh parang wala siyang pagkukulang.
Ikaw ba? Hindi mo ba kahit kaylan naisip na maaring ikaw mismo ang dahilan kung bakit hindi ka umaasenso at kinakaharap mo ang mga problemang meron ka?
Bakit mo sinisisi ang traffic at baha sa hindi mo pagsipot sa takdang oras sa lugar n na dapat mong puntahan? Tapos sasabihin mo nanaman na inutil ang mga lider ng bansa dahil hindi nila magawan ng paraan na solusyonan ang problema sa traffic. Sige nga, sagutin mo ito – “Sino ba ang nagluklok sa pwesto sa mga taong nasa poder ng kapangyarihan ngayon?” Ah… hindi mo sila ibinoto. O sige, eh iyon bang mga ibinoto mo noon, ano ang nagawa nila para sa bayan? Nawala ba ang traffic at baha noong panahon ng mga politikong sa tingin mo eh mas magaling at matino kaysa sa mga nakaupo ngayon?
At teka, kaninong ugali ba talaga ang hindi maganda kaya nakagalit mo ang taong kagalit mo ngayon? Sila ba talaga?
Sa palagay mo, ano ang ginawa ni Jim Rohn matapos sabihin iyon ni Earl Shoaf? Heto ang ginawa niya – nilamukos niya at itinapon sa basurahan ang listahan ng mga sinisi kung bakit hindi maganda ang itinatakbo ng pamumuhay niya. Gumawa siya ng bagong listahan. Isa na lamang ang isinulat niya – kanyang pangalan. Tinanggap niyang siya, at tanging siya lamang, ang dahilan kung bakit hindi umaasenso ang kanyang buhay. Siya ang may pagkukulang. Tinanggap niyang hindi puwedeng iaasa kahit kanino ang ating tagumpay. Noon nagsimulang maging maayos ang takbo ng kanyang buhay.
O ngayon, sagutin mo ito – bakit hindi ka makahanap ng trabaho? Naghanap ka bang talaga? Baka naman ang gusto mo eh ikaw ang hanapin ng trabaho? Baka naman kaya wala kang mapasukan eh masyado kang maselan. Tanggapin mo kung anong trabaho ang nababagay sa iyong kakayahan o tinapos.
Tandaan mo rin sanang may kompetisyon. Katulad mo, marami ding iba na naghahanap ng pagkakakitaan. Sa isang trabahador o empleyado na kaylangan eh maaring dalawa, tatlo, o higit pa kayo na pinagpipilian. Kung ikaw ang pinakamagaling, ikaw tiyak ang mapipili. Kaya’t pananagutan mo sa iyong sarili na iangat ang iyong kaalaman at kakayahan sa napili o kinabilangan mong karera o larangan para magkaroon ka ng bentahe sa iba.
Huwag mong ikahiya kung pagsasaka, o pangingisda, o pagakakarpintero, o pagtitinda ang siyang napili o kinaya mong gawing pagkakakitaan. Hindi naman kasi lahat ng tao eh makakapagtapos ng pagaaaral at magiging propesyonal. Pero hindi nangangahulugan na tanging ang mga nakapagtapos lang ng pagaaral ang puwedeng magtagumpay sa buhay. Ayon sa isang pagaaral, tatlo sa bawas sampung bilyonaryo ay hindi nakapagtapos ng kolehiyo. Kasama diyan ang mga pinakasikat na college dropouts na sina Mark Zuckerberg (CEO ng Facebook) at Bill Gates (founder ng Microsoft). Kung meron kang skill o talent, pagyamanin mo. Maaring iyan ang magiging tuntungan mo para matupad ang mga pangarap mo sa buhay
Meron ding mga tao na ayaw talagang mamasukan, may pinag-aralan man sila o wala, dahil mas gusto nilang magtayo ng sariling negosyo. Bakit hindi mo subukan?
Kung ayaw mo namang magnegosyo at wala kang makitang trabaho sa Pilipinas bakit hindi mo subukan ang mangibang-bansa? Kanya-kanya tayo ng diskarte o pamamaraan para pagandahin ang kalagayan natin sa buhay. May makikita kang trabaho o pagkakakitaan kung maghahanap ka.
Pananagutan sa sarili na humanap ng paraan upang mabuhay ng matiwasay at maunlad. Responsibilidad mo na tiyakin na magkakaroon ka ng kaalaman at kakayahan upang itaguyod mo ang iyong sarili at pamilya. Huwag mong iasa sa mga ibinoto mong kandidato, o kahit kanino pa man, ang iyong kinabukasan. Huwag kang magmaktol dahil mahirap ang mga magulang mo kaya hindi ka nakapagaral. Marami kayang nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral sa kolehiyo na hindi umaasa sa kanilang mga magulang na batid nilang wala namang kakayahang pinansyal. Huwag kang magdamdam sa mga kamag-anak mong mapepera na ni singkong duling eh hindi ka maabutan. Hindi nila responsibilidad na tulungan ka. Magpasalamat ko kung may tutulong sa iyo. Pero kung wala eh ganoon lang talaga ang buhay.
O, ano na ang balak mong gawin sa listahan ng mga tao at bagay na sinisisi mo sa hindi pagbuti ng kalagayan mo sa buhay? Lamukusin mo na iyan at itapon.
Dapat mong malaman na ano man ang estado mo ngayon sa buhay, ang lahat ng iyan ay ikaw ang may kagagawan. Huwag mong isisi kahit kanino. Ang tagumpay mong naabot o kabiguang pasan… ang maganda mong kalusugan o sakit na iniinda… ang kaligayahan mong nararamdam o lungkot na sa puso mo dumadagan – lahat ng iyan ay resulta ng mga ginawa mong tama at maling desisyon sa buhay. Hindi ka batang paslit para hindi mo malaman kung ano ang kakahinatnan ng mga bagay na ginawa at hindi mo ginawa.
Katulad ng madalas nating sabihin, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.”