“ Pride & Humility”
“O Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way”, was the beginning of a song written and sung by Mac Davis in 1980. While the lyrics are a comedic “tongue in cheek” point of view from a self-centered individual, there is more than a little bit of harsh truth about all of us in the words of the song.
The readings today remind us of the virtue of humility and the sin of pride. The prophet Zephaniah instructs us to seek humility and then seek the Lord. He assures us that a people humble and lowly will find refuge with God. Paul instructs the people of Corinth and us that when we boast, we should only boast in the Lord. Easier said than done.
I was once in a prayer group led by a retired priest who shared his life and faith journey with us. He told us that it had been his experience that the devil does his best work in our strengths rather than our weaknesses. The phrase caught me by surprise but the priest went on to explain. When we are at our lowest and life has bested us, driving us to our knees, our pleas naturally turn to God for help. In contrast, when we are successful and life is good, causing us to puff out our chest, we rarely look to God in thanksgiving but instead take all the credit ourselves.
It is at that moment that pride enters into our life and humility is lost. In that state of being, there also is no room for our Lord. Author and theologian, C.S. Lewis, best-defined virtue and sin in his book Mere Christianity,” Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more than the next man. He went on to conclude,” 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.”
And we are all guilty of the sin of pride. Yet, it is even worse when it infiltrates our faith life. Haven’t we all been the Pharisees seated in the front of the church, thanking God we’re not like the sinner kneeling in the back pew? How often have we elevated our faithfulness by denigrating someone else’s? After doing a good deed are we more concerned that we are recognized and given credit for our action, than having simply performed the act?
And we have all been humbled. Reflect on those times when you did an act of kindness with no expectation of anything in return. Isn’t the joy we feel greater than any recognition we may have received? The satisfaction we feel inside comes from simply doing God’s will.
Then why don’t we act with humility more often? The simple answer is that we are human. As such, we will always crave acceptance and recognition. At the same time, we strive for humility and the peace it brings us. St. Francis de Sales gives us words to live by, “Humility makes us acceptable to God, meekness makes us acceptable to men.” And blessed are the meek.