After identifying one’s authentic self, the next step is self-affirmation which has two parts. The first is acceptance of the recognized self. Paul Tillich, in his book The Courage to Be, offers a path, seemingly picking up where Heidegger left off. Recognition of the authentic self is intricately tied up with feelings of guilt; especially regarding our inauthentic past and the imperfection of our finitude. Traditionally we seek forgiveness from others or from God – both worthy actions –  but in fact, it is self-forgiveness and acceptance of our self as a finite being (what he calls the ‘courage of confidence’) which opens the door to our actualization. Tillich writes: “…the courage to be is the courage to accept oneself as accepted in spite of being unacceptable.”4,5

But Tillich warns us self-acceptance is only a half-measure. Affirmation of the self follows via participation in that which is greater than the self. Nonbeing (death) and finitude threaten our self- affirmation, but we can overcome this when we live creatively in ‘spheres of meaning.’ Here he is not referring to creative arts or science per se, but to creative participation in all aspects of reality.6 In an ontological sense, “the ultimate power of self-affirmation can only be the power of being-itself.”7 Being-itself is Tillich’s concept of the divine; thus self-affirmation occurs through the courage to be, and faith (a state, not a belief) is the experience of the power of this courage.8 In short, we come upon an existential paradox; self-affirmation is, unexpectedly, the courage to accept our finitude and align our being with ultimate reality.

(further continued next post)


4Tillich, Paul, The Courage to Be. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1957, page 164

5If by chance you do not feel guilt or understand the concern on reaching this point, perhaps you should reflect longer and deeper and return to the sections on selflessness (posts this site 11/25/20 and 11/27/20) and self-knowledge (posts this site 11/30/20 and 12/2/20).

6Ibid., page 46.

7Ibid., page 167.

8Ibid., page 172-3.

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