I want to write like a poet or some great writer like Tolstoy, but I am afraid I cannot. And I know the most important part of any story or article or whatever is the beginning. I’m never good at beginning anything. With that in mind, I want to go through the mental steps an overthinker goes through to fight against his own selfish interests for the sake of someone he may or may not love. He is not sure himself whether or not he does, and that in itself is another thought that keeps him busy for hours on end. But to avoid getting sidetracked, let’s keep to his thoughts.
Before we start, it is worthwhile to consider what C. S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters. In one letter the demon Screwtape writes to his inferior, Wormwood, on the benefits of helping his “patient” (us) actually do good things. He notes that if the patient finally achieves a good deed, then Wormwood should immediately make him feel proud of that good deed. And if he manages to overcome that pride, then he should be made proud of overcoming that pride, and so on. This is crucial to understanding the overthinker’s predicament: at each step of the way he questions whether or not his actions are ultimately just selfish, even when he is doing good. He cannot say “no, this is not selfish” as then he would doubt himself and think he is deceiving himself and it really is selfish. And of course, he cannot say “yes, it is selfish” as that would just put him back to square one on what the “right” choice is. And that’s the problem of his story: he doesn’t know what is the “right” thing to do, and he doesn’t know whether he does it because it is right or because he is selfish. With this being said, let’s begin.
The Overthinker met a girl. That was a week ago. The Overthinker, being a Christian and knowing he cannot hide anything from God, admitted that he was, at least a little bit, disappointed in the girl. She wasn’t as beautiful as he expected. He is ashamed to say it, but he cannot and should not hide this. The whole week he started to agree with the girl. She said that she is not the girl for him, and vice versa. Thinking about this – always thinking – he began to agree. “After all”, he thinks, “she is perhaps kinda shallow”. She hasn’t really shown any depth in her actions or interests, and all she seems interested in is Harry Potter and a series called Once Upon a Time. (It should be noted that the girl turned The Overthinker into a fan of both of these, and he now appreciates why she likes them. This was just his first judgmental impression). She did not give the ‘right’ answer to his long philosophical message on Chesterton’s idea on how this world really is a Fairy Tale. She did not reply to any of his manipulatively put status messages quoting Dostoevsky or C. S. Lewis. She has not shown any interest in his life, especially his “very deep” thoughts.
But being a Christian, and wanting to do what is right, he is aware of all this egoism in his actions and expectations. For a better part of him, a much purer part, is aware of her beauty. But remember, he is an overthinker.
She did not look like she did on her Facebook pictures. And she wore glasses. Not a single one of the pictures had her wearing them. Not that glasses are unattractive, but simply that it was unexpected. The Overthinker realised afterwards that he, ironically, also wore glasses. Only these glasses were not made out of, well, glass, but out of egoism and broken expectations. But he had his just reward in that these glasses did not help his sight but blinded him to her true beauty. Yes, he was stupid and selfish to expect her to look like those pictures. But, during the week after his “disappointment” he began to overthink this again. “But she really IS beautiful! Those photos are NOT lying. She could be this physical beauty any time she wishes. It would be stupid – insanely stupid – to hold her plainness at the moment against her if, who knows, a day later she could look like that!”. But, aware of his prior egoism of expecting her to be beautiful, he now realises that it is just as wrong to regain an interest in her simply because of how she could look. The one was selfish in expecting beauty, but this is shallow in only wanting her because of her possible beauty.
But what about all that other so called shallowness on her part? The Overthinker is quite aware of his own condescension on this issue and mocks himself each day for daring to think that he is not shallow. He knows this very well and this point should be made very clear: The Overthinker hates his egoism. He hates himself for it each day and he mocks himself: “Oh, I’m so special and smart and deep and intelligent! Oh, everyone worship me!”. He thinks it is healthy to mock himself like that, each day, at least twice a day, and he is most probably right. But, he overthinks, you cannot atone for your egoism by doing penance for it.
And so he realises inescapably that he really is a bad fellow. He knows he is shallow for expecting deepness, egotistical for expecting meekness, and superficial for wanting beauty when he knows for a fact (this is not humility, it really is a fact) that he is ugly. And this brings us to the overthinker’s opinion of himself. He knows that he disappointed her just as much by his own appearance, that he was awkward and stupid, and, having difficulty in speaking (a real physical difficulty) that he is physically a worm before her, regardless of how he views her.
It came as a slight surprise to The Overthinker – but not to anyone reading this – that the day did not turn out as he wanted it, and also that she clearly said afterwards that they are not meant for each other. As she put it, “We ‘click’ as friends, but I want something more”. As noted, the Overthinker slowly came to agree.
And yet, in spite of it all, The Overthinker cannot help but remember all the nice things. The beauty in her pictures are not just superficial, but real true beauty. Those eyes and face show such warmth and joyfulness. And for a moment on the day he met her he could see past the “not as beautiful” look on her face into her true beauty. This date, by the way, took place at an animal shelter. On that specific day they had a “puppy day” where people could come and play with these puppies and adopt them. What The Overthinker recalls is one scene where this girl, with a puppy in her arms, was struggling to keep the furry monster from licking her in her face, almost making her drop her glasses. The impression of this scene on his soul is difficult to express. The closest word he could come up with is simply “lovely”. A lovely scene. Or possibly a lovely girl? One scene that went through his glasses.
All of the above are just an explanation for the current thoughts that are overwhelming him. He still has some hopes, the poor fool! He realises this, but it bothers him that his hopes may still not be pure. “She is probably right. We are not meant for each other. So why still hope if you don’t really want to hope?”. But then he wonders “But isn’t it still out of egoism that I think she is not right for me? Isn’t that ungratefulness?”. He really doesn’t understand why he still hopes. He points to all of the above so called flaws of her when trying to convince himself that he really shouldn’t even want to hope. But he still cannot help but think about those two crazy words: “What if?”.
But there are two thoughts that trouble The Overthinker. Should he pursue her despite his evilness? That recognizing his evil would be sufficient? Or should he do the honourable thing: recognise how wretched he is and spare her the trouble? But then, overthinking it, he realises two additional things. Firstly, how dare he even pursue her when she made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to like him like that? That’s not right. Wouldn’t he be disrepecting her choice by irritating her and bothering her with his actions? But the other thing is he wonders whether he is not really afraid of irritating her out of some noble sentiment, but rather out of fear of final rejection? If the latter, then he is a coward. And if he is a coward, then he has even more reason to leave her alone. It could be the noble possibility of him wanting to respect her choice and not irritate her, that he really does not deserve her and leave her alone, but he cannot trust himself that this is his true motive.
Reaching the apex of his own limited understanding, he throws himself over to God. He tells Him every single thing that has been said above. But even in his prayer he overthinks and doubts himself.
“Lord, I am evil. I’m immature, ugly and a coward. I think I love her, but I really don’t know. I honestly don’t even know if I really even want her. She does seem a bit shallow, and she did disappoint me in how she looks. I know I am ungrateful for thinking this, and I really am sorry and I hate myself for blinding myself to her beauty. But she is also very nice, she definitely has a good heart, and the pictures – I know I am perhaps superficial for still clinging on to them – do at least show her loveliness, a loveliness you honored me to see at least for one second. Lord, I don’t know what to do. I want to respect her choice. And therefore I want her to be the one to tell me if she wants to meet again. Not out of pride, but out of respect. I honestly do not want to upset her life by insisting on seeing her again. I had my chance and I blew it. And I have no right to insist on another chance. But then again, I do want to pursue her. That’s what a just and chivalrous man (a man and not a boy like me) would do. I don’t want to miss my chance waiting if all I need to do is ask. But this might just irritate her, and lead to her cutting me off completely. And if she says yes, how do I know I won’t mess it up like last time? Do I even honestly want to go through the trouble again (forgive me). And even if it does work out, as I said, perhaps after all I don’t even want her? And it just leads to more pain for her? Or am I a coward who is more afraid of the pain for myself than for her? Or perhaps I will be overjoyed, but then I curse her to live with me. And perhaps I’ll mess it up anyway. So what do I do? What choice should I make? I don’t expect some miraculous sign. I want guidance”.
After catching his breath, he continues:
“At the very least, at least do what is best for her, even if it means her cutting me out of her life”.
“But do I mean this? Am I noble in saying this? A part of me, out of some selfish manipulative pride thinks I can deceive even YOU, thinking ‘Tell Him you give her up, and he will give her to you because of your meekness’. And how do I know that even admitting this deception makes my intentions pure? Perhaps in my heart of hearts I really do want You to bring us together out of some selfish reward for me “giving” her up (her whom I cannot even give). And if this is the case, do I even mean it when I ask You to do what is best for her if it means cutting me out of her life? I hope at least one small honourable part of me, even if just a grain of sand, really means this”.
And this he prayed, but when he stopped he still did not know what to do.