“Pride is the poison in every other virtue” – G.K. Chesterton
You would think by now I would have learned. The last few times I’ve asked Mr. Irish what I should blog about he usually responds that he doesn’t know. Last night he told me to blog about tomatoes. However, within an hour or two of asking him some conversation comes up, some issue surfaces, some nerve gets hit, some insecurity revealed and suddenly we both know what it is I have to blog about. Perhaps I should just stop asking him…or perhaps I should be more grateful that God continues to heal my heart (painful though it may be at times). But, no matter. Last night, and today, and perhaps every day, the issue is pride.
I first heard that quote of Chesterton’s at Theology on Tap last year when this guy did an hour long impersonation of Chesterton. It is a brilliant, and true quote. You could even take out the last half of it and it would still have oodles of wisdom in it, yes, oodles. Pride is the poison. Pride is THE poison. Pride is the reason for the Fall. Its the reason for sin. Father Chris Kirchgessner (one of my favorite monks in college) once said that all sin is idolatry. What exactly is idolatry? Excessive or blind adoration. Worship of anything but the one true God. And what do we as humans love and worship more than God? Ourselves.
We weren’t created this way, you must understand. We were created in glory. We were made to live in Eden, to be with God all the time. Then pride enters the story and everything gets ridiculously screwed up. Have you read any of the Old Testament? It is FULL of tales of excessive pride. Eve eats the apple, so does Adam. Bye-bye Garden of Eden. Jonah doesn’t want to go to Ninevah. Hello whale, why are you eating me? King David has an affair and tries to cover his tracks by putting his best soldier at the front lines to be killed. Hello Psalm 51. It isn’t even confined to the Old Testament – Peter denies Jesus, and just as Jesus said, the cock crows. Pride is the nasty vice that rears its head in countless different ways, the tale is as old as time.
Pride all too often brings its friends along to play, and pride is only friends with other vices. How do I know this? Allow me to tell you a bit of my tale. [Rather ironically this tale is not at all something I’m proud of. Often times blogging, though I love it, is a bit like going to confession for the whole world to hear.] I like attention. Well, that’s mostly true, but that’s not really all of it. I like attention when I’m in a relationship, and not just a little attention but a LOT of attention. I want to gobble up all of his attention (whoever he may be because this isn’t something that’s only happened with Mr. Irish), all of his free time and all of his affection. Now, to most people that sounds like selfishness, and to a degree most people would be right. But the real issue is pride. I think that I deserve his time, his attention and his affection. Now, I realize that this may sound a little odd considering how I tend to go on about being worthy of love – and we are, but we are not. We are only worthy of love, worthy of agape by grace. By my own merits I don’t deserve anything, not to be loved by God and certainly not to steal all of Mr. Irish’s time and attention. Pride, in this case, uses selfishness as a mask to cover up its true identity. Pride is like…many episodes of House. Often times the doctors can treat the symptoms (in this case, selfishness) but struggle to uncover the cause (in this case, pride) of all the symptoms. Those symptoms increase and worsen, but once the true cause is discovered all can be healed. “Pride is the poison in every other vice.”
But it doesn’t just end there. Last night, in a moment that I can only credit to the Holy Spirit, I asked Mr. Irish to go to the chapel. The Eucharistic Adoration chapel, mind you. So we go, we pray, all is well, and we sit next to each other. Then Mr. Irish begins to look at me with this look that I will never be able to describe, where we simply gaze into each other’s eyes. It is a look I love but last night, in the chapel it felt…wrong. I love gazing into his eyes, and I love when he gazes into mine but last night it just hit me that I don’t need to be focused on Mr. Irish, I need to be focused on God. We were in the Eucharistic adoration chapel after all. Pride has led me to seek the wrong man’s attention; my hunger, my desire for attention has locked its eyes on the wrong target as its primary source of fulfillment. I’ve been clingy and needy with Mr. Irish because I’m actually hungering for God. I want God’s attention, I want God to revel in me, to dote on me. But how could and why would the God of the Universe revel in me, dote on me, a human, a mere reflection of greatness on my best day, and a sinner on my worst? Satan has used pride to lead me to doubt my own worth. Again. Oh, the irony. At this moment, pride comes crashing down for pride can’t co-exist with God. Pride says that everyone should fall at my feet, bow down and worship me. God says that we are to fall at His feet, bow down and worship Him. I’m left with a choice: my pride or God’s love.
As I reflected on this whole issue even more last night I came to realize that pride not only harms the one it infects, it harms others. Think back to being in the chapel. I wanted to continue gazing in Mr. Irish’s eyes, I love the attention, remember? But if we are gazing into each other’s eyes, where are we NOT looking? At the Eucharist. Through my prideful and selfish desire to take all of his free time and attention and affection, I’m simultaneously leading him away from Christ. Epic fail hardly begins to describe the gravity of this situation. Now, I’m not so powerful as to totally lead him away from Christ, he is free to do as he wishes, but I’m certainly not helping the situation any. Again, I’m left with a choice: Mr. Irish’s attention on me or on God.
When I reflect on all this the choice becomes clear, though not easy. Pride, to borrow yet another one of Fr. Chris’ sayings, needs to take a long walk on a short pier. Pride is all too easily wounded and incredibly slow to forget. Pride is the stone tied to our ankles, dragging us to the ocean floor, while we believe we are still on dry land. Pride and the life spent seeking the heart of Jesus don’t co-exist. Ever.
Lord, rid me of my pride. Rid me of that voice that says I deserve so-and-so’s attention, time and affection. Rid me of that voice that says You don’t love me. Yours is the affection for which my heart and soul long – shower me in Your love. AMEN.