If it weren’t for mixed motives I’d have no motives at all.
I’m an idealist. I want (earnest cliche alert) to make the world a better place.
But I’m also a hopeless egoist, and no matter what I do I can never completely rid myself of the desire to impress. Argggh! (Even now, as I write this, a part of me is hoping you’ll be impressed with my “humility”!)
What can be done? If I shift my focus to killing my self-absorption, the effort itself become an act of self-absorption! In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon advises a junior tempter on how to keep humans stuck in this endless cycle:
Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble,” and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humor and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.
Each time I write, that un-killable cur Ego sits in the corner whining for attention. I can never completely drive him away. But I can refuse to feed him.
My motives are still mixed, but at least the cur grows thinner.
So I check my spelling, hit Publish…
And then laugh and go to bed.
For further insights, read Romans 7:24-8:1