Recently a professor of mine sent me an email that read, “I am always impressed with the ways you think so deeply about things.” Coming from one of the most articulate, knowledgeable people I have come across, my heart soared. I was tempted to weave it, somehow, into the conversations of the day, with roommates and friends and even my mom. It felt good to be recognized in the hours following a lengthy classroom discussion on pride. It felt even better, for a length of time, to walk around the rest of the week with a secret piece of praise stuck on my brain like a little gold star for having a small understanding on the theology and detriment of pride.
Reflecting on that, as I stuck to the instinctual piece of choosing to keep the kind words to myself, I almost laughed out loud. Pride! How the discussions and readings on pride have wrecked me and made me weep for recognition of its hold on my own thoughts. How C.S. Lewis held strongly to the belief that pride was to be called “the great sin” because of the ways that it turns our thoughts inward and not to the gifts we have been given by our Father. How the words of another were now latching on and defining my every move in the most ungraceful and arrogant of ways; I was allowing them to define me.
I think we hear a lot about not letting the spoken negativity of others stick to us; certainly this is a good and true thing that should be ingrained in us as deeply as it is. I don’t think we hear a lot about the positive though, in letting grace slip away and arrogance creep in.
When we allow the opinions of others’ to define our mannerisms and our character, it causes harm. It causes a divide in what is to be communal and conversational because it builds up the slightest barrier in our minds that we, in a sense, are a product of praises and approvals and credit that is due to humans, ourselves included. When we allow credit from these sources to rule, we begin to see compliments as productions, rather than as gifts.
I allow this to happen all the time; this is just one instance from a kind professor who chose to speak wisdom and praise into my life (or inbox). But if I were to say that pride did not rear its ugly head in my words and rhythms daily, I would be lying. I let the praises of others rule my thoughts. I hold tightly to the reflections of my inner self on everything, from cooking abilities to how crowded my daily planner is, and even admittedly to a position that strives to be a “better” Christian than some of those around me. It’s the silliest thing and yet the most difficult of things, to not let our perceptions of self rule and dictate the courses of our outpouring of love for others and God.
There is hope in this transgression of pride and selfishness and arrogance. It is Jesus, it is the truth He spoke of recognizing our sinfulness and checking ourselves in order to better His kingdom. It is the commands He gave to His disciples to “become like little children” (Matthew 18:3), not because of innocence and naivety, but because He desired for us all to live and understand the lowly positions of those who are considered to be burdensome, which children were at the time of the New Testament. Jesus came and has given a beautiful example of what it means to live not out of pride, but out of humility and grace and concern for others.
We have Jesus, therefore we have a counter to the pride that builds up and defines us so easily. When we recognize that the good parts about us, the compliments and praises, are gifts and not of our own doing, we can humbly bow our heads in a position of straight up gratitude.
Let’s recognize our prideful nature, our ego-building, contemplative mannerisms that do little to build community and relationship with our Savior. Let’s accept that the pieces others point out about our character are good, but are not defining. We are called to humility and gratitude and to view our lives and talents as the precious, God-given gifts that they are.
And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)
“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
words by Erin McChurch and photo by Sara Beth Pritchard