By a feeling he has not learned to identify, but has derived from his first
awareness of existence, from his discovery that he has to make choices, man
knows that his desperate need of self-esteem is a matter of life or death. As a
being of volitional consciousness, he knows that he must know his own value in
order to maintain his own life. He knows that he has to be right; to be wrong
in action means danger to his life; to be wrong in person, to be evil, means
to be unfit for existence.
Every act of man’s life has to be willed; the mere act of obtaining or eating
his food implies that the person he preserves is worthy of being preserved;
every pleasure he seeks to enjoy implies that the person who seeks it is worthy
of finding enjoyment. He has no choice about his need of self-esteem, his only
choice is the standard by which to gauge it. And he makes his fatal error when
he switches this gauge protecting his life into the service of his own
destruction, when he chooses a standard contradicting existence and sets his
self-esteem against reality.