Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 SIR 35:12-14, 16-18
Responsorial PsalmPS 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
- (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Reading 2 2 TM 4:6-8, 16-18
Alleluia2 COR 5:19
22-23 October 2016 Pride
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our readings this weekend, we are given examples of behavior at each of the spectrum: humility and pride. These behaviors are opposite from each other but every day we get to choose one. The choice we make has a tremendous effect on how we interact with God and everyone around us.
As you may know, pride is one of the 7 deadly sins and, left unchecked, is a gateway to every other sin. When we are full of pride, we try to put ourselves above everything and everyone. If we are above it all, we can more easily justify our actions and go farther off course.
The most dangerous aspect of pride is in our relationship with God. Pride prevents us from truly knowing God because our perspective is distorted. A proud person is always looking down on other people. As long as we are looking down, we cannot see God above us. Some scholars say the most evil example is the devil himself. It was through pride that a fallen angel became the devil because he was too proud to serve God.
C.S. Lewis called pride the “Great Sin”. In his book Mere Christianity he wrote a chapter about pride and recognizing it in your daily life. It was a real eye opener for me. I have always struggled with pride but did not realize how it can affect all aspects of our behavior and personality.
The book suggests some simple questions to help us understand if pride is a problem for us. Let’s take a short quiz:
- How much do I dislike it when other people snub me?
- How much do I hate it when someone patronizes me or when other people show off?
- How much do I disapprove of seeing pride in others?
The book goes on to say that pride, by its nature, is competitive. Pride will always lead us to want more than the next person: more attention, more power, more success. Since each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride, a proud person cannot tolerate that behavior in others. If everyone was exactly the same, there would be nothing to be proud about. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.
Pride can be a spiritual cancer and it can creep into our faith life before we realize it. Growing in our spiritual life should bring us closer to God and more open to seeing God’s presence in others. If we feel we are growing closer to God but are impatient or look down on the people in the pew next to us, we are on the wrong path. We do not want to be like the Pharisee in the Gospel. He was very pious with his outward actions of prayer and tithing but judgmental of everyone else.
So what can cause pride and what can we do about it?
In my own experience I have found that pride can come from feelings of insecurity and fear. When we feel insecure about something, we want the praise or attention of others to feel better about ourselves. If we don’t get this needed praise or attention, we can become judgmental of others and look down on them to lift ourselves up.
It’s a vicious cycle that the devil loves to keep going for us. He tries to put judgmental thoughts and feelings of insecurity in our mind hoping we will latch on to them. This cycle of pride is like skinning our knee and getting a scab. We can leave the itchy scab alone to let it heal or pick at the scab until it’s bloody.
The way we respond to the cycle of pride is up to us each day. The challenge for us is to ignore these prideful thoughts and feelings. If we do slip up and find ourselves overcome with pride we can turn to God for forgiveness and learn from our mistakes. If we consciously look for the situations that trigger this behavior, we can avoid them or be better prepared to resist them. If we are overwhelmed with these temptations, going to Reconciliation and starting with a clean slate may help.
Another related behavior to watch out for is false humility. An example of false humility is refusing an honest complement or putting ourselves down with the intent of getting sympathy or attention. Like the sin of pride, false humility can be brought on by our own insecurities and make us crave the praise of others.
So how do we become more humble?
We have already completed the first step: recognizing what pride may look like in our life. Fortunately we have many great examples of true humility in our Catholic faith to learn from. The life of Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. God came down from heaven in the form of a helpless baby and spent His short life on earth living an example of love and humility. After being rejected, He offered His life on the cross as payment for our sins.
More recently, St. Teresa of Calcutta gave us some tips for practicing humility:
- speak as little as possible about yourself
- mind our own business.
- accept contradictions and correction cheerfully
- pass over the mistakes of others.
- accept being snubbed, forgotten and disliked.
The best way to become more humble is to realize that pride is part of our human nature and to resist it. Being humble is to love others the way that God has loved us.
I will leave you with a quote about humility from author and pastor Rick Warren:
“Humility is not thinking less about yourself. It’s thinking about yourself less.”