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Overcoming our greatest Enemy

pharisee_carolsfeldThere is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world. (St. Teresa of Avila)

Why is pride an enemy, even our greatest enemy?

  • Pride, “inordinate self-love, is the cause of every sin.” (St. Thomas) If sin is our enemy, the only real evil, and pride its cause, then pride is the greatest enemy within us we have to overcome.
  • Pride was the sin of Adam and Lucifer.  It is “the chief cause of suffering in every nation, in every family since the world began.” (C.S. Lewis)
  • Pride is the trickiest, most devious enemy. It blinds us, so we can’t see our own pride. The proud man thinks he is humble and the others proud. Not himself.
What is pride, so I can fight it?
  • Pride is inordinate or disordered love of our own excellence. (St. Thomas).
  • If “humility is truth”, then pride is falsehood. The falsehood that I am the center of the universe and of everybody else’s attention. Not God. Thus, pride is “playing God”. (Peter Kreeft)
  • Pride is essentially competitive. (C.S. Lewis)  You treat others as rivals, and put them down, so you can go up.
What are the benefits of not being proud, of being humble, of living in the truth?
  • Divine help. “God resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble.” Only an open, empty glass can be filled with new wine.
  • Greatness. Mary, the greatest person after God, attributes all her greatness to her “lowliness”. “Those who humble themselves as little children are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.” (Jesus)
  • Overcoming sins. If pride is the cause of all sin, then overcoming pride helps us overcome our other sins, such as lust, avarice, dishonesty, sloth (repulsion to God who is Joy and Goodness).
  • Real nobility. “Humility is the most important virtue,” (St. Bernard) “the foundation of all the other virtues. If humility is not in a soul, he does not have any virtue, except mere appearance.”  (St. Augustine)
  • Deep peace. Pride is the root of gloom. “90% of our personal problems come from thinking too much of ourselves.” (St. Josemaria)  While humility, brings tranquility: “rest for your souls.” (Jesus)
How can I know if I am proud, since pride is hard to spot? (This list is mainly based on the teachings of St. Josemaria)
  1. Preferring your own excellence over your neighbors. Making your thoughts and concerns revolve around yourself; not around God and others. Thinking too much of how others think of you
  2. Being touchy. Easily taking offense at the slightest hint of criticism which might not even be directed towards you. Resenting anything that brings down others’ opinion of you.
  3. Being vain. Thinking yourself better than what you really are. Having an undue esteem over your appearance or achievements
  4. Not recognizing the truth of your personal defects and deficiencies. Making excuses when corrected. Hiding some humiliating faults from your spiritual director or life coach. Being sad over not having certain possessions, and good qualities
  5. Thinking of yourself as better than others. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say. Mentioning yourself as an example. Being hurt that others are praised.
  6. Being arrogant. Having an exaggerated sense of your own importance or abilities. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
  7. Being domineering. Always wanting to get your own way. Quarreling when you are not right or when you are, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
  8. Looking down at others and putting them down. Despising the point of view of others. Being ready to reveal defects of anyone who stands out (crab mentality). Insulting and ridiculing others
  9. Seeking yourself and seeking attention for yourself. Avidly going after praise. Boasting and making undue public display of one’s own achievements. Faking pain, illness and sadness to get attention. Speaking badly about yourself, so that others may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you. Letting drop hints of self-praise
  10. Not having a deep awareness of yourself, as sinner and a creature totally dependent on God. Not acknowledging that everything we are, do and own come from God, and will disappear without God’s conserving power. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem
What virtues are not really pride, and go with humility?
  • Magnanimity, striving to do great things that bring great honor
  • Responsibility and courage, sticking to do good despite discomfort
  • Care for the body with good posture and dignified clothes.
How can I overcome pride and become humble?
  1. Always relish these most basic truths, especially when you do good:  I came from nothing, apart from Christ I can do nothing, I am God’s most beloved child, and I am his instrument in his work.
  2. Make humility a priority. Only God can overcome sin, but we have to do our part. Go often to Jesus’ healing sacraments. Beg him for humility, walking in the truth of our littleness and greatness as God’s kids. See the conquest of pride as “the best of the best” of your daily mortifications, (Cf. CPB 9)  prizing unperceived sacrifice.
  3. Know yourself. Practice self-examination. Be exacting in detecting acts of pride with the help of the list above. Crucial is Jesus’ humble tax collector’s prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  4. Think often of your inevitable death.  And your rotten, forgotten corpse after death. Both “human” and “humility” come from humus meaning earth, ground, soil and dirt.
  5. Be happy to say “My mistake, I’m sorry!” Be grateful for humiliations and criticisms. Even saying inside: they will say worse things if they knew my thoughts. The gauge of true humility is “when you are humbled by others and you bear it for Christ.” Sing: “I more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  6. Forget yourself. “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package.” (H.E. Fosdick) While humility is the ecstatically joyful self-forgetfulness of the mystics focused on God. (Cf. P. Kreeft)
  7. Trust God and not yourself.  And learn to ask for help. The proud Pharisee “trusted himself”. Pride grows when we trust our abilities.
  8. Serve and make others great. Be upbeat and encouraging when they do good. See their defects as opportunities to serve them.      “To give oneself sincerely to others is so effective that God rewards it with a humility filled with cheerfulness.” (St. Josemaria)
  9. Enjoy putting God’s tender love (not yourself) at the center at all moments of the day, especially at prayer. Thank him for all and offer all glory to him. Heed Jesus’ invite:  Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.  Make your heart and mind revolve around the utmost act of humility and love, Jesus’ sacrifice.
  10. Submit and embrace God.  Clearly, you are not God. And so your mind, body and, above all, your will need to “embrace” God. Humility is the submitting embrace of God who is Love that liberates from within, as we absorb his divine life: prayer, penance, chastity, and obedience.  Jesus’ embrace that saved all is “Not my will but yours be done.” This key attitude, too, will save us from our sins –from pride, their cause– and make us an active protagonist in Jesus’ work of saving all men from their sins.

Ipinaskil: Dr. Raul Nidoy



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