Someone once told me that that trying to knock over the sin of pride is like trying to knock over a ball. If you push it over from any direction, it is still standing. I think what that means is that pride is a very resistant sin indeed. So here are a few recent thoughts on the subject…
When we fall into other sins, it should make it easier to overcome the sin of pride. After all, what have I to be proud of when my weakness and disgrace is laid bare before my very eyes? Yet strangely, sometimes we don’t see it that way. Sometimes the pride is so resilient within us that we think something like: “Yeah, sure I messed up, but I’m still better than so-and-so! He messed up much worse than me!” Or perhaps: “Ok, so I made a mistake. I know I’m not absolutely perfect, but Im still pretty close!” Then of course, there’s the old favourite, Buck Passing: “It wasn’t my fault I messed up – it was him/her/them. They made me do it!”
The Desert Fathers often encourage us to always place our sins before our eyes. This is not meant, I am sure, in the morbid way it is sometimes understood. It is not meant to ‘beat us down’ and make us feel miserable about ourselves. The Desert Fathers actually had a pretty healthy sense of self-esteem that could bear with this burden of sin, but their self-esteem was built on different foundation to most of us. One of my favourite sayings is the Father who described his spiritual battle thus:
Whenever I become proud, I think of my sins and I say to myself, there, what have you to be proud of you awful sinner? And whenever I fall into despair because of my sins, I say to myself, yes, but God still still loves me!
What a beautifully balanced personality! His self-esteem does not come from the kinds of things we use for self-esteem, like our abilities or achievements, the kind of job we do, the size of our house, the gadgets we own or comparing ourselves to others. This happy man builds his self esteem on something that he can never lose – the love of God for him. But there is an added benefit to this way of thinking: that is that there can be no pride in this self-esteem. Think about it. Can he take any of the credit for being loved by God? God does not love him because he is saintly (God sees all his sins, hidden and manifest), nor will God be impressed by his achievements or talents (where did he get them in the first place?). God doesn’t care about the latest gadget, and He isn;t impressed that you are clever enough to get one. In fact, you can’t impress God no matter how you try. The only reason God will love you is because He is Love. And that makes all the difference.
It isn’t easy, learning to think like this. We find it so much more secure to cling to our little bag of self-admiration, and we constantly seek for new things to boost our ego. It makes us feel better about life: there is no doubt of that. But in the long run, it is fighting a losing battle. A human being and his/her abilities is just too fragile a base to support our self-esteem for long. Sooner or later, we will have to face up to the fact that we are faulty, mixed up and terribly fallible. And when that kind of self-esteem comes crashing down, it’s pretty ugly.
If you think about, it is a pretty wise investment in the future to start working on this now. Better to begin transferring all my self-esteem stocks to the Bank of God, before the Bank of Me comes crashing down to earth.