Thursday, March 8, 2012

That we may be prouder than we think




"God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble"
James 4:6

As the world we see around us rewards those it deems great and brilliant, this is a very challenging verse. Sometimes I think I may have to strive harder and pray more often to break through barriers when it never occurs to me that I may simply be experiencing 'resistance', for pride pops up any time and doesn't necessarily look like what we might expect.

Who appears humble by the world's standards? Those who are soft spoken, hesitate to look you in the eye and don't bignote themselves? I was born socially awkward and may tick all these boxes. In the past, people have called me 'unassuming'. They've said I need to speak up about my accomplishments. But what if all this is based on pride just as much as the arrogant and supercilious who strut around in their lofty positions of self-confidence?

Both extremes may be fraught with pride. Basically, they're both attitudes that comes from relying on yourself and your own inner resources to get by. Instead of regarding pride as a dangerous path to tread, the world actually encourages it by congratulating such people as the 'self-made millionaire.' Bottom line - as long as you are occupied with self, you have a problem with pride.

True humility is knowing that you can't possibly succeed without God's help, but with Him, all things are possible. It's great when God gets full glory which can't happen when we struggle and strive. The problem is, thinking and behaving with pride is so ingrained in our thought patterns, we may feel as if we're floundering when we're actually in a good position as far as God's concerned.

Moses was said to be 'great in might' for the first 40 years of his life when he was strutting about Egyptian palaces, known as the son of Pharoah's daughter. Those Egyptian prince days aren't talked about much. Perhaps they were proud, self-reliant years when he couldn't be used by God because he was too full of himself. God didn't approach Moses with a mighty task until he was a broken man, pushing sheep around in the desert, having given up on that used to fill his lifestyle.

It's interesting when we take the time to examine our motives. King Hezekiah showed a visiting dignitary through his entire palace and armoury, giving him the grand tour. He was surprised and nervous by the rebuke he got from the prophet Isaiah, who was God's mouthpiece at the time. I had the same reaction when I read it. "Hey, I didn't really see that as showing off! He was just trying to be a friendly host." But the impression I got didn't stand up against what God knew was in Hezekiah's heart.

It's easy for us to put the best possible spin on our own motives and even convince ourselves that it is true. We might fool ourselves, we might fool others too, but if there's any pride-based desire to seek the admiration and approval of others, He knows. This is no trifling matter as it may even set us back in the attitude of earning our place in heaven through works instead of grace, a place no Christian wants to find themselves.

How do we operate when we're actually coming from a place of humility? I think the heaviness and care is lifted from our shoulders. Those hang-ups about lack of support and acknowledgment no longer matter. Humility is hard thing to set about acquiring, because as we all know, whenever we get to a place where we feel we can state, "Here I am, humble at last!" we have to go right back to the start!

I'll finish with this great prayer I found by Mother Teresa.

Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved
From the desire of being extolled
From the desire of being honoured
From the desire of being praised
From the desire of being preferred
From the desire of being consulted
From the desire of being approved
From the desire of being popular

From the fear of being humiliated
From the fear of being despised
From the fear of suffering rebukes
From the fear of being calumniated
From the fear of being forgotten
From the fear of being wronged
From the fear of being ridiculed
From the fear of being suspected

Mother Teresa

5 comments:

  1. Hi Paula. The area of pride that I'm most aware of in my life is putting my opinion of myself and my abilities ( low) in a higher position than Gods opinion of who I am and what I can do. I have heard it said that true humility is agreeing with God. Love the prayer and who can argue with mother Teresa. Xx

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  2. Your blog is right on target. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "Life Together," he talks about the way Satan takes our best moments of service and talks us into pride of accomplishment rather than gratefulness for our opportunity to serve.
    My mother always built up my pride, which mothers should do, I suppose, but every time I do anything right, I can hear her words, and right away, I am not humble. I am proud of what I have done, and I wonder if anyone else ever did anything so grand. You gave me a great tool for response to that temptation with Mother Teresa's prayer.
    Thanks for a great post.

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  3. Thanks for serving us with this post, Paula. I found it really helpful and encouraging. The prayer is worth remembering also.

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  4. Ah, humility. I think that's what stops me from trying harder to make my work known. I feel like it's wrong to toot my own horn about it. As someone who has tried many self-employment occupations, I can tell you it is hard to be humble and marketable at the same time. Then again, making money isn't really what spiritual enrichment is about. :o)

    Perhaps the balance point is happiness. When we a truly content with who we are and grateful for our blessings, we don't feel that need to compete in the game of "I'm so great because..." That's what I see in Mother Theresa's prayer. To live without these desires and fears is to truly put yourself in the hands of God and find peace. Such a simple goal, and yet so hard to reach in our material world. :o)

    Peace and Laughter!

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  5. Hi and thanks for commenting, everyone. Katherine, my mother did a similar thing, with the intention of building up my confidence. Between this and the comments made by my peer group at school which tore me down, my pride was pulled in all directions. I agree, Cristina, that Mother Teresa's prayer offers balance.

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Thanks for your comments.

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