Friday, February 17, 2012

The Issue of Pride

"If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored." (Matthew 23:12, CEV)

I have been "taking it in the pants" lately.  Unwittingly, I have repeatedly managed to offend others, evoking strong, painful responses over the past couple of months.  In every case, it was something that completely blindsided me, an action taken or statement made totally devoid of malice on my part.  Clumsy thoughtlessness is how I would label my offenses.  The less-than-kind way people in these various situations treated me turned my occasion of sin against them into a reciprocal sin against me.  Threats, unkind words and willful ending of a friendship were all heaped upon me.

Injustice, I cried!  Tears mixed with my prayers as I felt misunderstood, demeaned and undermined.  Where is El Roi, the God who sees me?  I need some vindication.

In a brief period of time, my Comforter reminded me that the sin of pride, which it seems we will all be fighting until death, is only diminished through humility.  And that humility comes in responding to a harsh word or an unkindness with gentility.  (see Proverbs 15:1)  So rather than return hurt for hurt, my response in each of these situations was with humble love.  Knowing God has his best for me when I obey, I did things His way instead of my own.  Some of these situations immediately improved.  Some did not.  Much depended on the heart of who I was responding to.  Nevertheless, I had the peace of knowing I had done what was right in the sight of the Lord.  I received Divine forgiveness, and my sinful pride shrunk by at least one full size in each situation.

I couldn't help but reflect on each of these situations and instantly think of the many times we are wronged as families who have members with special needs.  How many times our kids are excluded.  How often a doctor thinks they know our child better than we do.  How often schools fail to cooperate with the plans mandated by the federal government.

These times enrage us.  Like Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, we want that pound of flesh to vindicate the injustice done to us.  We have our pride, and it's been wounded.  We must win at all costs.  We tell ourselves we have every right to be nasty to the doctor or snippy with the ignorant little classmate or even scream at the school staff.  We go through much, and the world owes us better!

But what if we took a deep breath and realized that these are just fallible human beings like us.  Life is messy, and we humans tend to bump into each other often.  Difficult people are, as I often joke, merely the sandpaper of life to smooth off our rough edges.  When we respond to these individuals with grace rather than proud indignation, that gentle humility surprisingly changes those around us.  As we let go of that pride, we both shrink our sinful attitude and actually become exalted, both with God and our fellow man.  In this way, the ordinary trials of this life become our unique opportunity to reflect God's glory to the world. 

Pray:  Lord, being separated from my sinful pride is so painful.  Help me to do the right thing despite that strong desire I have to protect my own pride.

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