“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
It is said that pride is the root of every sin, but do we ever pause to consider why? Is there not a basic sense of pride that keeps our head up when things go awry, or a feeling of accomplishment when tasks are completed well? The truth is that often we are so confused over what the meaning of pride is that we misconstrue it from the very beginning. As well as, pride’s little sister humility which we often view as an unwelcome guest.
For as long as I can remember a small plaque bearing a simple scripture verse hung in my mother’s kitchen.
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Instead of inspiring me or leading me to a richer faith, this verse carried with it so much misunderstanding and guilt. Taken out of context, I had misinterpreted that it was wrong to ever have joy at success or with the many gifts I had been given. Certainly in this mindset it would follow as a greater sin to ever share that awareness of accomplishment with others . Other translations, however, hint at the true intention that Paul wished to convey.
“But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which -the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
First of all Paul was speaking to outward signs, specifically here to circumcision, that would be done solely to fulfill the law and gain recognition as a faithful disciple which could then be lorded over others. Our inner self examination is what matters and all that we do is to be held against the backdrop of what Christ has done for us. Therefore, every success or failure is not for our aggrandizement or mockery, but a way to come to know and love the God who sacrificed his only son for each of us. For, there is no way we could fulfill the law, or please God on our own.
So in light of this, what is the sin of pride?
It was pride that convinced Lucifer that he was greater than God and Eve that the pursuit of knowledge was greater than the love that she already enjoyed. Pride then is first an unbalanced sense and preoccupation with the self. Paul writes in Corinthians that “all of us have knowledge; knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up”. The question then becomes whether what we are seeking merely inflates the self or by its very intention desires to engender love and build up the kingdom of God. For this reason pride is very precipitous of every other vice (greed, envy, hate, lust, sloth, and gluttony) . Pride has at its center, as Ezra Benson notes, a “central feature…enmity – enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen” either overt or concealed. This voice tells us to affirm and advance ourselves as no one else will do that for us. Even in its smallest form, pride creates division, fosters animosity, and pursues a will of its own.
And pride’s little sister humility?
Humility is recognizing that all that we are and are given come from God. These great gifts, even those undesired obstacles and challenges, have a solitary purpose- for our salvation. It is an acceptance that none of us called are qualified to do the task at hand on our own, but that God will give us and use whatever gifts needed to accomplish the smallest of missions for His greater glory. Humility walks at times alongside or quite often behind others where the self, though not forgotten, is not the main focus. And from this perspective God is able to show us great things. As G.K. Chesterton remarked,
“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
How then do we practice this in real life?
To approach this question, St. Teresa of Calcutta has a bit of advice-
“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”
Is there an area in my life where a greater walk in humility is needed? How has this affected my relationship with God and others?