Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

THERE are fashions in virtue as well as in dress, and some virtues are now as passe as the whalebone corset or the satin-lapelled frock-coat. Prominent among these unfashionable virtues is fortitude, which is now not merely unvalued but considered an outright vice. In an age of counselling, emotional incontinence is what we admire. Fortitude is regarded as a form of evasiveness, at best ridiculous, at worst vicious and immoral. He feels most who blubbers longest.

One of the most ardently desired qualities these days is self-esteem. It seems to me that whoever wants self-esteem already has it, and in more than sufficient measure. I try to tell my patients that it is possible, even likely, that a person has too much self-esteem rather than too little. I cite the example of several prisoners of my acquaintance who, despite having committed the most terrible crimes, remain convinced of their inner rectitude and worth, and walk with a strut like the biggest turkey-cock in the farmyard.

`Goering had self-esteem,' I say to them, if I think they know who Goering was. `And what does that tell you?' `What?'

`That the correct measure of selfesteem is in a man's life. If you can have too little, you can also have too much. Thinking about the measure of selfesteem which is your due is like going to the Court of Appeal: your sentence may be reduced, but then again it may also be increased.'

It goes without saying that most people's self-esteem is much stronger without an exacting examination of the justification for it. …

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