”Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.’
Romans 12:10 ESV
When Jesus washed his disciples’ dirty feet he took a swipe at their competitive nature, a not so subtle dig at their itch to be ‘first’ in his Kingdom. In this third brief post on the theme of pride, C S Lewis suggests that our competitiveness may be the best barometer of our problems with that particular sin.
‘If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise…. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive—is competitive by its very nature— while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident ….. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.…. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. . . . . Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.’
From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis
‘Baptists? What are they against?’, he asked; a good clue to where he was coming from. I knew what he meant and tried to answer as positively as I could, while remembering that ‘anyone who stands for nothing will fall for anything’. What could I tell him, positively, that any Christian, Baptist or otherwise, should be completely against? Maybe this from C S Lewis, the second of three brief posts on pride?
‘There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.’
From C S Lewis in Mere Christianity
Jesus, on one occasion, asked a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ (John 5:5-7) It’s a question we might ask ourselves in respect to other areas of our life, besides the physical.
In this first of three brief posts on the theme of pride C.S.Lewis reminds us that sometimes we are called on by Jesus to give up lesser pleasures for greater ones.
A LETTER TO MRS. JOHNSON: on pride as the pleasure of self-approval 18 February 1954
‘Yes, I know one doesn’t even want to be cured of one’s pride because it gives pleasure. But the pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch: but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither, but have everything else (God, our fellow-humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.’
From The Collected Letters of C S Lewis Volume III
This third of three brief posts on the theme of humility comes from C S Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. First published in 1942, they are Lewis’s imaginative (and helpful, I think) look at our experience of temptation, shown in the advice that senior demon (Screwtape) gives to his nephew and junior tempter (Wormwood).
Here, Screwtape suggests methods for tempting us away from humility into pride, for turning our attention away from God and our neighbor to us.
Screwtape writes, ‘Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.
But there are other profitable ways of fixing his attention on the virtue of Humility. By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the man’s attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbours. All the abjection and self-hatred are designed, in the long run, solely for this end; unless they attain this end they do us little harm; and they may even do us good if they keep the man concerned with himself, and, above all, if self-contempt can be made the starting point for contempt of other selves, and thus for gloom, cynicism, and cruelty.’
From The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
Urging self-esteem upon ones who know very well that self-esteem is quite undeserved, leads to all sorts of distresses; guilt, anxiety and resentment, not the least.
When a brightly glowing self-esteem seems to be the measure of a healthy personality for our generation, not just according to the media but the medicos too, where are we to find it? In this second of three brief posts on the theme of humility, C.S.Lewis suggests we need to look beyond the ‘taint of self-approval’ to a ‘self-satisfaction’ that pleases God first…
‘And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself: “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.”’
From C.S.Lewis The Weight of Glory