I pride myself on… Is not a phrase that I hear very much anymore. Why is that? Well, pride is a bad thing, isn’t it, in Christian circles? Pride comes before a fall, etc. We hear all of these shortcomings about pride and therefore have exhumed it from our Christian culture. There is a culture of humility that has been developed. A culture where we cannot take a compliment because it might make us look prideful. Where we don’t want to be competitive because we’re all the same, aren’t we?
There is something in this culture of humility that has always sat a little false with me. I do acknowledge that we are called to be humble, that the meek shall inherit the earth, but it just struck me lately that maybe this humility that we present on a day-to-day basis isn’t that real after all.
This epiphany came to me after a day not long ago where I was dealing with some news that rankled. News that made me feel disappointed, angry, uncomfortable, all those emotions that you feel when someone in your life or someone who you know does something they shouldn’t. Righteous indignation? Justifiable disappointment? How would you define it? I was disappointed with another person’s decision and was wishing that they were JUST DIFFERENT!
I wrestled with these feelings during the day, praying, trying to have an attitude of kindness towards a person who was clearly in the wrong. The time came for my quiet time and I knew that I would be asking God to help me with this issue. Help me to realize that I can’t change that other person and ask him, once again, that he would allow me peace on this issue. Peace was not to come, however.
During these times when I encounter another person’s struggle that is not my struggle, I realize that my first go to response is not necessarily compassion. Ok, that was sugar-coating it. Sometimes I am flat-out mad that the person just can’t change, just doesn’t make better decisions. I always couched it in terms of “I am a person who seeks justice and when I see sin, my response is that reparation is made”. Nice way of putting it, isn’t it? After all, justice is a good thing. We are called to seek justice.
That night I got an image in my head. As I closed my eyes and prepared to seek God, it was as if he took my face in his hands, looked me in the eye and said “You need to show compassion.” Now, usually how I and God handle my righteous indignation (notice the I and God order there, that’s truthful) is that I get to grumble about another person’s failings for a while and then God reminds me that he forgave me…and then I resign myself to getting over it. That changed. God showed me something that was truly and biblically humbling.
Pride. Now there are some things that I think are ok to be proud of. Accomplishments, hard work, etc. But God showed me that I was prideful. I was prideful in that I could look at another person’s sin and think “never me, I would not ever, (insert head shake here), How could they? Don’t they know? It is so easy for me to take pride in my not-me sinlessness. My indignation was a form of judgement because if I thought I was capable of such a thing, would compassion spring from those feelings, from that acknowledgement? Compassion was not my first response because secretly, inside I thought that my small sins were less than their very big sin, the very public sin. Sure, there were sins that I did, impatience, selfishness, small sins, really. But these were nothing in compared to that person’s sin.
Pride. I pride myself. I pride myself on the fact that my sins are less obvious to the public. Less noticeable, more easily covered, more forgivable. If I truly saw myself as a sinner, not just a small time sinner but as a person whose sin is no less painful to God then that person’s sin, I could not react as strongly as I do. By seeing myself as I truly am, sinful as everyone else is sinful. Realizing that all sin separates from God, realizing that though my sin is different I am still someone who needs forgiveness and needs the compassion that at times I am so reluctant to offer others.
It was humbling. Humbling to realize that my righteous judgement is not acceptable in God’s eyes. To see that I really do not separate the sin from the sinner in my heart. God reminded me that I need to hate the sin but love the sinner. To love them as he loves me. To see myself in his eyes, a loved person who sins, in need of forgiveness but worthy of compassion.
I cannot show false humility and harbor pride in my heart. I cannot show a false face of compassion and secretly think “I would never” because even though I might never do that particular sin, my own sins are worthy of judgement but are shown compassion. To see past the plank in my own eye, which is pride in my own plank (convoluted I know) and realize that my response to other people’s sin can be sinful.