When enough-ness is never enough

I came across an article from a book. When is enough enough? In our life of busyness, we deeply want to be busy or at least have others think that we are busy. Somehow, it adds value to ourselves and the work we do–or at least we perceive that it does. The writer, David Zahl, writes:

What about you? Maybe the reason you can’t stop scrolling through your social media feed is because it confirms how right(eous) your opinions are about others or yourself. Or maybe, on some level that you can barely admit to yourself, you believe that if your latest post on Facebook gets enough likes, you will finally like yourself.

While enoughness may not be a direct synonym for righteousness, it’s not far off. After all, enough only makes sense if there’s some kind of line demarcating it from not enough. It implies a standard of some kind. Yet we avoid the word righteousness because it sounds too religious, too old-fashioned, too judgmental, too close to self-righteous—and we know we don’t like thatRighteous sounds ominously absolute and therefore authoritarian, as though it could impinge on the lives of those around us. Enough, on the other hand, has a more subjective and therefore less threatening connotation.

In practice, there’s very little difference. Those dogged by a sense of not-enoughness know all too well that “I’ll know enough when I see/feel it” isn’t any lighter a burden than “reach [X, Y or Z] objective standard.” Both are classic spiritual treadmills, and the former may even be more taxing due to its slipperiness. Whatever the case, the problem of self-justification is not a linguistic one.

A major problem for those of us with “righteous minds” comes when our conception of righteousness differs from that of our neighbors, or when we feel they are standing in the way of our attainment of it. Innocuous-seeming differences in perspective balloon overnight into showdowns over good versus evil. And nothing allows us to more easily excuse ruthlessness than when we’ve painted our neighbor as an adversary to all that is true and holy.

There’s a deep irony at work here: enoughness is a universal human longing. The yearning for it binds us together across party, country, gender, race, and age. It provides the glue that holds our most altruistic movements together. Yet, the specific expression of this obsession in each person’s life is often what alienates us from others. The tighter the in-group, the larger the out-group will be. Depending on the content of the righteousness in question, this drive can spark our most dehumanizing judgments of other people and inspire us, sometimes unconsciously, to conceive of the world in terms of us versus them.

(read full article here...)

I feel convicted by this. It is true. Absolutely true of myself. Perhaps you might feel the same too.