Isn’t this so true of the struggle to release our grip on self-righteousness, self-respect, self-affirmation? From P. T. Forsyth’s book The Cruciality of the Cross [page 47]:
“A man needs something to make him confident that his past sin, and the sin he is yet sure to commit, are all taken up into God’s redemption, and the great transaction of his moral life is done. … It is not easy.
Theological belief may not be so hard. But for a man to make Christ’s atonement the sole centre of his moral life, or of his hope for the race, is not easy. Nothing is so resented by the natural self as the hearty admission of man’s native lostness and helplessness, especially when he thinks of all the heroisms, integrities, and charities which ennoble the race.
It is not always pride, it is often a mere natural self-affirmation. It is a native self-respect, which makes him shrink from submitting himself absolutely to the judgment of another. Even in his repentance he does not want to lose all self-respect. He feels he cannot amend the life of conscience, and repair the old faults, without, some remnant of self-respect to work from.
His new shoots must come from the old stump, which must not be rooted out. He is fighting for the one remnant of a moral nature which if he lost he fears he would be less than a man. He does not easily realise what a poor thing his self-justification must be compared with his justification by God, his self-repair beside God’s new creation. He does not feel how sterile the stump is, how poorly his moral remnant would serve him for his moral need, how that recuperative vitality is the one thing he lacks, how absolute God’s grace is, and how complete is the moral re-creation in Christ. He palters with a synergism which is always trying to do the best for human nature in a bargain with God.”