So Full of Ourselves

by Tank Tankersley, February 23, 2009

When responding to a student’s request to take an honors course, I inquire, “Do you have a grade-point average of at least 3.25?”  That question can be answered in a word, of course; either a “yes” or “no” will suffice.  It would be nice to hear a “sir” appended, but the current generation of college students has on the whole forsworn that traditional courtesy.  This is a general observation, of course.  It would be inaccurate and unkind to suggest that all my students worship a the altar of rudeness.  Some do not, but that number is smaller today than yesterday and will, I gear, be smaller tomorrow than today.

But I digress.  Not infrequently a student will volunteer something like, “Oh yes, I have a 3.8.”  I always resist the temptation to reply that I did not ask for his or her grade-point average.  I let it go.  But that response is revealing, isn’t it?  Many of us are eager to boast of our accomplishments.

Perhaps they get it from their professors, a lot on the whole taken with themselves.

In a meeting many years ago, one of my colleagues, a member of central administration, held forth at great length on his most recent technological triumph.  The screed went something like this: “My secretary said it would take me at least tow weeks to learn to use the input-output-throughput-bottom line-proactive interface program (or whatever it was), but of course I learned it in only two days.”  I came very close to saying, “Okay, okay, we’ll all stipulate that you’re a really smart guy.  Now that proper obeisance has been paid, can we get on with the meeting?”

I find more charming than I can tell a combination that is endangered, bordering on the extinct, the combination of ability and humility.  Every once in a while I’ll encounter someone whose accomplishments are impressive but who does not feel obliged to tell others all about them.  Such is pleasant experience, and a rare one.

Yes, we are so full of ourselves, so much so that little room is left for God.  There is nothing new about this of course:  it is history’s immutable theme.  See Eden-fall-et seq.