Confessions The Self-Restraint Of A Mind


The self-restraint of a mind that testifies to its own weakness is more beautiful than the things I was hot to know.—Saint Augustine, Confessions 5.12


Augustine praised Faustus in front of others but was annoyed that he was not able to get him alone to question him. When the opportunity finally presented itself, Augustine took command of Faustus’ ears and put before him the matters that concerned him. Augustine found out immediately that Faustus had “no knowledge of the liberal arts, except for literary studies, and even there he was only at an ordinary level” (5.11.2).


However, he did not try to pretend as he knew. He was not like “that tribe of loudmouths” who “tried to teach me while telling me nothing” (12.12.3). When others were not able to answer Augustine’s question, they with confidence promised him that Faustus would have an answer. However, Faustus did not feel like he had the burden of needing to provide an answer.


In a post-game interview on November 5, 2021, Derrick Rose met with the media following the Knicks' win against the Milwaukee Bucks. When asked how he felt about where he was mentally and physically, he replied, “I am playing with joy… I’m in a great place. I’m on a very talented team… I don’t have to score. it’s not every night to score 30 pts. I don’t have a burden on me like that.” Had Faustus been asked the same question in a post-game interview after being questioned by Augustine I believe he would have responded in the same way: I don’t have to have an answer for every question. I don’t have a burden on me like that.


Although Faustus did not have all the answers and was not a Christian, he “genuinely had a heart” that “showed a decent degree of carefulness about [him]” (5.12.4). Faustus would rather be honest than live up to everyone’s expectation of him and remain on the pedestal everyone had him on, even if it impacted his reputation. This made Augustine respect him.


Faustus had a quality about him that we should all strive to have: honesty. We do not have a burden on us to have all the answers, but we do have the burden, to be honest about what we do and do not know. It takes the self-restraint of the mind to testify to its own weakness. And this is more beautiful than having all the answers.


For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.—2 Corinthians 12:10


Lord, give me the self-restraint to testify of my own weakness. For in my weakness, you are strong. Amen.


Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.


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