François Fénelon: Forgetting Self is Beautiful
Nothing is more attractive than someone free from self-consciousness
Fénelonis one of the great Spiritual Directors in the Christian tradition. I always find him writing universal words to universal needs. In this letter to an unknown recipient, he writes that forgetting oneself is a beautiful quality. He reminds me that a flawed person who is other-conscious can be delightful while a gifted person who is constantly self-conscious is unlikable. In this letter, Fénelon hits upon the essence of humility, which is not moral perfection, but a habit of being other-directed. It’s this freedom from self-consciousness, he explains, that not only makes us attractive; it also makes us magnetic.
...there is really nothing more beautiful and attractive than a thorough absence of self-consciousness.
But this is out of keeping among worldly people, who rarely forget self unless it be when they are altogether absorbed by still more worthless external interests; yet even such simplicity of heart as the world can produce gives us some faint idea of the beauty of the real thing.
They who cannot find the substance sometimes run after the shadow, and shadow though it be, it attracts them for want of better things.
Take a person full of faults, but not seeking to hide them, not attempting to shine, affecting neither talent, goodness, nor grace, not seeming to think more of himself than of others, not continually remembering that "I" to which we are most of us so alive; such a person will be generally liked in spite of many faults.
His spurious simplicity passes as genuine.
On the contrary, a very clever person, full of acquired virtues and external gifts, will always be jarring, disagreeable, and repulsive if he seems living in perpetual self-consciousness and affectation.
So that we may safely say, that even from the lower point of view nothing is more attractive or desirable than a simple character free from self-consciousness.
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François Fénelon was a French Catholic theologian, writer, and spiritual advisor. He was born in 1651, and is best known for his works such as The Adventures of Telemachus and Maxims of the Saints. He was also a leader in the Quietist movement, which promoted a contemplative approach to faith and the cultivation of inner peace. He believed that the experience of religion comes from within and that God was present in every being. He died in 1715 and is remembered for his writings on inner peace and spirituality.
Fénelon François de Salignac de La Mothe-. The Spiritual Letters of Archbishop Fénelon: Letters to Women. Translated by H. L. Sidney Lear. London: Longmans, Green, 1894.