G.K. Chesterton on Charlie Sheen?

     Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world;
they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true.
Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made
a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a
motto of the modern world.  Yet I had heard it once too often,
and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it.  The publisher
said of somebody, "That man will get on; he believes in himself."
And I remember that as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught
an omnibus on which was written "Hanwell**."  I said to him,
"Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?
For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more
colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed
star of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of
the Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in
lunatic asylums."  

    He said mildly that there were a good many men after
all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums.
"Yes, there are," I retorted, "and you of all men ought to know them.
That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy,
he believed in himself.  That elderly minister with an epic from
whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself.
If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly
individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself
is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.  Actors who can't
act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay.  It would
be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he
believes in himself.  Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin;
complete self-confidence is a weakness.  Believing utterly in one's
self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in
Joanna Southcote:  the man who has it has `Hanwell' written on his
face as plain as it is written on that omnibus."

This is from Chapter 1 of Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton. 

I kept thinking of this while watching a Charlie Sheen interview.
I don't mean it to poke fun at Sheen, but just to observe the
wisdom of GKC's words on the worth of believing in yourself. -Sam

**Note: Hamell refers to the asylum there.


  1. That’s my kind of quote. Orthodoxy seems to leave me saying “mmm-hmmm” and “boy-howdy”. Read (or listen) to “Eugenics and Other Evils” sometime. It leaves me roaring at a fallen world.

  2. I love G. C. Chesterton. I only recently read “Heretics” and “Orthodoxy” and am in awe. I wish I discovered him 30 years ago (I was 20 then). I ended up publishing my favorite quotes from those two books on my blog. He writes so broad and tight though, you have to read what he wrote in its entirety to really appreciate what he’s saying. That is so true of Charlie and that picture you found really punctuates that passage too.

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