Thernardier is not an enjoyable character to watch. Reading Les Miserables, I wish for him to go away. Why? Because he represents the selfish greed that I know is in me. I am not so far along the path that I would overtly display myself as he would, but unfortunately the taste of that motivation is recognizable. The degrees of selfish action seem to me:

  1. Accidental words or acts of selfishness without self-awareness.
  2. Accidental selfishness with hindsight and regret.
  3. Intentional selfishness but feigning a lack of self awareness: manipulation could be involved. This is the last degree in which there is expectation to be perceived as innocent.
  4. Intentional selfishness with acknowledged unspoken awareness by the offender and the offended. This was the degree to which Thenardier was acting.
  5. Intentional selfishness with acknowledgement all around – such was the crime he contemplated and wished for as he regretted leaving his gun behind.

The path is the same for me and Thernardier, and the direction being taken on this path is indicative of the moral health of my soul. If I act with integrity then I act unselfishly when no one else is looking. This is as good as saying that I remain in degrees 1 or 2 above. If I venture on to a higher degree of selfishness, then I am eroding my integrity.

Substitute selfishness for greed or self-interest if you like. One clear example I often wonder about is politicians. The leaders seem to assume quite awkward hypocritical positions without any pretense to self awareness. Are they at degree 3 or degree 4? Do they just depend on their loyal followings who blindly accept their pretense because of their party? Or do they really believe that all people struggle to see them acting in the very way that they accused their opponent of acting when the tables were turned?

This is very interesting speculation and discussion, and so easy to see the trend in others. The hard part is acknowledging and repenting that is the only meaningful point here. Lord, help me to see and strengthen me to repent.