Laziness, Not Bad Luck

“But Amory, honestly, what makes me the angriest isn’t the fact that you won’t be chairman of the Prince and on the Senior Council, but that you didn’t get down and pass the exam.”

“Not me,” said Amory slowly; “I’m mad at the concrete thing. My own idleness was quite in accord with my system, but the luck broke.”

“Your system broke, you mean.”

This Side of Paradise p. 73

Amory was lazy—and ignorant of how that laziness had actual, real ramifications—or so stubborn in his laziness and Superman delusions that he actually believed it was something random—luck, as he called it—that stepped in and overthrew everything. And overthrow everything it did. While the downward spiral had already started, it began picking up momentum rapidly here—the episode with Rosalind not withstanding. 

But Amory assumed all would be well. That’s what overarching pride does: kick against the goads and make excuses and point fingers when one’s toes turn bloody. How easily the Superman becomes the victim. But Amory will not find Razkolnikov’s redemption. The Bible speaks more about personal responsibility than about victimhood. It’s not that it doesn’t recognize victims and then demands—yes, demands—that God’s people care for those who have been mistreated or who are in danger of being mistreated: foreigners, widows, orphans, the poor. 

But the Bible doesn’t let the individual off the hook for his or her behavior. Cain isn’t coddled because his feelings were hurt by God over his offering. He was told to watch out and not let his feelings keep him from avoiding the sin currently tugging at his sleeve. Cain’s feelings were irrelevant to the situation.

Joseph isn’t continually reassured that everything will be ok when he’s abused, mistreated, wrongly accused, and forgotten. He’s held up as an example precisely because he persevered when there was really no good reason to. When the stress of leading the nation of Egypt through difficult times was placed on him after the years of mistreatment, he wasn’t treated as a victim but expected to perform and come through. 

Paul wasn’t patted on the back when he turned from persecutor to apostle; he was told how much he was going to suffer for the one he had turned to and trusted in—and he did suffer (see 2 Corinthians 6:4–10, 11:23–28). And in his suffering he didn’t demand a relaxing of any of God’s demands on his life—either in his calling or his behavior. 

Amory points his finger at luck. Amory’s pride will rear its ugly head again and again. He will genuinely be hurt, but he takes little personal responsibility for his role. Life crushes him, and he has no moral fiber to withstand the pressure. 

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