Posted by: scintillatingspeck | January 17, 2013


You think you’re not worthy
I have to say I agree
I’m not worthy of you
You’re not worthy of me
– Ani DiFranco

Who among us is worthy?  What does it mean to be worthy?  These are lifelong questions of mine, and I don’t suppose I can expect to answer them for myself in any concise, tidy way.  “Worthy” seems related to being “good enough” and yet seems to push many levels beyond mere adequacy.  If it’s so bloody hard to feel barely adequate, what kind of herculean effort will it it take to feel worthy?

We are endlessly tripped up by circumstance, it would seem, much of it out of our control.  Who among us does not succumb to anxiety, rage, jealousy, pettiness, or the stasis of indifference or denial?  We are so vulnerable, so fallible.  We fall, again and again.  We follow illusions.  We pursue mirages on the horizon, hoping that if we can just arrive there, our thirst can be sated.  Over and over we make mistakes, we cause harm, we are hog-tied by delusions even as we believe that we walk unencumbered, possessing freedom of will.

I think I’m still laboring under the erroneous belief that “worthy” must mean “infallible.”  This can’t be so.  If it’s so then absolutely no one is worthy, and my heart revolts at such a thought.  There are those who believe that humans are irredeemable, and there’s ample evidence of collective human greed, destruction, and monstrosity around.  I can’t fault those who have given up on human worthiness, who have good reason to be filled with rage and disgust.  I’m often in that category myself.  The emotional calculus shifts, however, when brought face-to-face with kindness, decency, compassion, and love as embodied by mere, imperfect mortals.

I want to light flares of warning about worthiness, to state categorically, beware the impulse to crown anyone a hero; beware, also, the impulse to consider anyone beneath you.  We are so prone to idolizing and demonizing.  Where does this extreme polarization come from?  Is it the natural consequence of our cultural mythology, ruled by competition and domination?  Must we all be either winners or losers, sometimes cycling through those titles in the span of days, hours, moments?  What if we could strive, instead, to be profoundly worthy?  Worthy.  Owning up to our mistakes.  Having humility.  Making amends for the damage.  Allowing our hearts to be open, no matter how scarred, battered, and destroyed.  Being honest to everyone with whom we associate, especially ourselves.  Further, recognizing one’s own simultaneous ordinariness and brilliance, and seeing that in everyone, in its infinite variations.

Either we are all intrinsically worthy, doing the best we can, or none of us are.



  1. Jen

    This reminds me of a job I once had. One morning the boss decided to lavish praise upon me and a fellow worker for some work we’d done the previous day. Very kind of him I thought. Dare I say it, but I felt worthy. This was against my better judgement because as a general rule I found him to be unpleasant, exploitative and difficult. Sure enough, that afternoon , he’d reverted to being the sort of person I wanted to punch in the mouth. I no longer considered him worthy of my good thoughts. Love to hate in the blink of an eye!( About 4 hours it took) Why did I put any value on his praise in the first place? I didn’t particularly want it or need it and I knew damn well it would only be a temporary thing. I didn’t think I wanted to feel worthy in his eyes; I affected a couldn’t give a damn attitude, but the second he spoke some words of kindness I grabbed them with gratitude. I remember feeling slightly disgusted with myself that day. It left me feeling cynical with him and angry at myself for letting it affect me and for the negative feelings it dragged up towards him. It’s a reflex I think, to latch on to percieved goodness in other people, even if you’re aware its transitional and based upon their current thoughts as to whether you are worthy/deserving/good enough to recieve their kind words or help or whatever. I’d certainly agree with you that putting people on pedastals or cursing them as unworthy is something we all do . It’s everywhere in just about any human encounter…” Oh,isn’t such and such a great person…Terrible what he did isn’t it?” Blah blah blah. Another reflex? Habit? I don’t know. I do know I’m trying to stop doing it because again, it makes me feel ever so slightly disgusted with myself.

    I like to think that despite constantly being dissapointed in humanity in general and my own behaviour over the years, there’s still room left in me to be as decent as I can towards others and to recognise when they’re being decent to me. It ain’t always easy is it?

    Everything in this life is a matter of perspective. It’s also totally subjective on every possible level.Worthy of what? To whom? For what benefit? I hope that doesn’t sound trite, I don’t mean it to. I do think that yep, we are all intrinsically worthy and doing the best we can at all times with what we’ve got.( Even my ex boss,bless him!) And just incase we’re not…oh well, what can you do? Perhaps it cancels itself out in the end. I hope this reply isn’t too rambling or disjointed, but its been a while since I wrote much of anything and I’m not used to it anymore.

    Be kind to yourself, give yourself a hug and take care


  2. Jen, I’ve been thinking about this.

    I think it’s natural, in one sense, to think we’re unworthy, if we think about just how much a miracle it is that we’re here at all: not just that our parents met, and engaged in procreation at a particular moment, but that they had the opportunities they had, and so on; to say nothing of indoor plumbing, libraries, international travel, and so on (though I’m well aware of justifiable reservations about Civilization writ large, bear with me.) And so on, to a billion years of evolution, and the stars that we’re made of. It’s not possible to be worthy of that, is it? It’s Grace, all the way down.

    But Grace does apply, doesn’t it? Is your daughter worthy? Is your mother? Foolish questions, I feel sure. There’s nothing either of them could do to deserve your love, or to make you love them any more, right? You’re conditional about some of what Lily does, out of love, but about her? She’s as worthy as she’ll ever need to be.

    And that won’t stop her, any more than it does you, from striving and working and learning. Knowing you don’t need to be perfect, or to solve any particular big issue, to be worthy of love, might give you courage. If everybody is worthy of respect, and a hearing, then you certainly are, too.

    But as Jung said, we know we’re supposed to be compassionate and respectful, even to beggars and crazy people and people who are hard on you, but what if you notice that you’re the one who keeps being mean to you?

    I imagine you as a 14-year-old, feeling completely un-listened-to and unseen (like all 14 year olds, but maybe more so) and I want to cry and yell, but also to laugh, and hug you, because your job was to keep being you, even when people around you just couldn’t see your radiant truth and beauty, and you did it.

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