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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pride and Addiction - Part 3

Pride is our own worst enemy.  The fall left us susceptible to fear, but Pride is our own choice.  In the Gospel, Jesus Christ experiences fear: in the Garden of Gethsemane, He labored in prayer because His humanity suffered with fear of what was going to happen.  He persevered not through Pride, but quiet humility which He demonstrated all through His arrest and crucifixion.

A proud man would have fought back.  He would not have submitted to such humiliation.  Yet, by avoiding Pride and humbly accepting in His flesh the Divine Will, His humanity overcame death and the devil.

You see, Pride would have alienated Him from His Father and us.  His Pride might have appeared to have justifications: He is innocent, His death would not be fair, the Pharisees were too unjust to judge Him, etc.  Pride can also look very reasonable.

But, Pride is more than being puffed up.  It is an alienation from others.  Pride keeps us from helping others because we so often do not want to get our hands 'dirty.'

Pride will tell us that our ideas are better than others, that our opinions are more important than someone else's needs, that we must 'stay the course' in what we believe even when it is not working or not helping.  pride says 'no' to service, and sometimes with what seems to be a perfectly logical reason.

When I went to seminary, I was taught many things, and I developed a whole list of things that I swore I would never do (largely about compromising my ideals about the Church and the Faith) and things that I would do.  Then, I was ordained and set to people who suffered.  In my first few years, I really struggled with my own pride telling me to hold this 'line' I had created in seminary.

Eventually, I realized that my expectations were false.  My duty was not to enforce my self-created policies, but help people in need.  I have failed in this even today most often because of my own Pride, which I struggle with because I have not been fully cured of my fears.  And, boy, do I have some fears!

What I do know is that when I live without fear, God seems to help me.  Sure, sometimes my fears come true, but usually in ways I did not expect.  Pain hurts, but living in fear of it keeps me from experiencing all of life.  Pain is also humiliating: just look at the Cross and you see the humiliation of pain.

But, what this is also telling us is that man was not meant to be Proud.  Pain moves us from what is unnatural to what is natural.  So, the pain of the Cross and death led to the Resurrection and the True Humanity.  Pride avoids pain, but also transformation.  We end up avoiding the glory of God trying to preserve the glory of man.

Most of our pain will involve others, and Pride's demands that we exalt ourselves over others means that we can no longer be of service.  Yet, this service is not only what we were made to do, but also make us coworkers in the Divine: God loves others through us.  If we become stiff and proud, then we are no longer of service and the Divine cannot transform us because we have cut Him off.

In the 12 Steps of AA, the 'spiritual awakening' that is promised in Step 12 speaks of this:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

'Carrying the message' is a humbling experience.  It means being available to people to help them.  It also means being humble enough to admit the truth about your own suffering and the humiliation you have endured.  Pride has no place: nobody wants to hear about how wonderful you are, because your greatness will not heal their suffering.

We can point to our lives as evidence of God's mercy and healing, but only if we are humble enough to admit that we have been wounded by sin to begin with.  Humble saints talk about being sinners, but proud men condemn sinners while maintaining a 'flawless' exterior.

Pride really is a coating, and exterior devoid of content.  This is why proud people are so boring.  Sure, they can be charming as first, like the faux-wood finish on a linoleum floor.  But, spend some time looking at the floor, and you see that the pattern just repeats itself over and over again the way real wood grain does not.  Once you have seen a little bit, you've seen the whole thing.  The stories of the proud always have the same ending: they win and they are wonderful.

The truth is that we do not always win, and we are not always wonderful.  But, truth and Pride have no relationship.  Pride steals from truth, but truth needs nothing from Pride.

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