Growing up, I used to wonder why pride was such a bad thing. Reading all those old Greek plays in English class was something that actually intrigued me, but I was always confused by the idea of hubris. I never understood why playwrights would make the downfall of a great character something as dumb as excessive pride. When I started exploring my faith for the first time, I also didn’t understand why pride was seen as the worst cardinal sin. It was even depicted that way in the anime, FullMetal Alchemist (no shame). I mean, come on, wouldn’t greed be the worst one? Where everyone always seeks more for themselves? Where everyone always tries to get more than they actually need? Isn’t that the cause behind poverty and so many other issues in this world?
And yeah, I got the explanation that pride is a motivating factor behind greed as well as the other cardinal sins and that’s why it’s seen as the root of all evil. But back then, I just didn’t get it. I saw pride as something good. To have pride in one’s work. To do it well because you take pride in what you do. To have pride in your family and your culture meant to have no shame. To proudly display it to let people know that this is who I am. To have pride in the sports teams that you root for and to be proud that you cheer for them through the good and the bad. It didn’t seem all that wrong to me.
What I didn’t realize then was that I had fallen into the same hypnotizing lull as the rest of the world. Sure, having pride in who I was and what I did seems perfectly fine, but the point is it became all about me. Me, myself, and I. It made me self-centered and self-righteous. I just always had to be better than someone else in some way and because of that, I deserved better than them. It consumed me to the point of where I didn’t even realize how it affected those around me. At least, not until very recently.
Thankfully, God finally forced me to my knees despite my stubbornness in the first measure of humility in my life. It just happened late this past spring semester and I think it’s a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life because of the wondrous journey it has started. Just that small glimpse of humility has opened my eyes to so much of the ash that is left of past relationships in my life brought on by my pride. It’s opened my eyes to how pride has influenced my every decision and thought until now. It’s as if I’ve been able to just step outside of myself and look at my life as a different person. And it’s been incredible. But not in that great of a way. I look at myself with such an incredulous feeling and wonder how I could have been that way for so long and never seen it.
Even just today, a Facebook profile of an old family friend popped up on my news feed. We’ll call him M. I haven’t talked to the guy in forever, but we actually grew up together. It used to be him, me, and another one of my old friends. We would always be hanging out and doing stupid stuff together because our families were friends and loved to chat over tea and crackers and Chinese television. But if I’m completely honest with myself, it was really just me and my other old friend verses M. He was kind of easy to pick on, and we used to do it a lot. It was always in “good fun,” but it was also most definitely mean. He always took it well and laughed it off because he was that strong of a guy, and I admire him for that now, but I realized that in high school, M also became kind of a mean person himself. He would lash out at other people or do things that made people feel awkward and not really know how to treat him. And back then, it all just became fuel for the way I treated him. “Yeah, man, why are you always doing that…you’re so stupid.” “Get out of here, nobody likes that!” All those stupid comments that I made because I thought I was better than him and that I deserved to be able to talk to him and treat him however I wanted. But today, when I browsed his profile a bit and looked through his pictures, I found so many people genuinely laughing and smiling with him. On his wall and on his photos, there weren’t all too many comments, but always the same few people telling him that they miss him and asking him when they could hang out again. Yeah, I’m a bit of a stalker, so what. But the point is, I looked at those people in his pictures and the people posting on his wall, and I just wondered, “Why couldn’t I have loved him like that?” I mean, I grew up with the guy! Why couldn’t I have set my pride aside and just loved him like a brother? I felt a lot of regret, but that quickly turned into joy at his newfound friends. His new friends at school will probably be better friends to him than I ever was, and I’m genuinely glad for him. Even more so, he’s at a Christian school, so I’m actually hoping that maybe those guys and girls are a Christ-following community that can help to lead Him to the Lord. That would be freaking awesome.
On top of all this, I’ve realized that I never ever would have been able to see things this way if God hadn’t brought that first measure of humility into my life. Looking back at it now, it truly was just like a drop of the sweetest nectar. Now I can’t stop looking forward to more of that sweet stuff. Ever so slowly, I can feel my pride being dissolved and replaced with love that can only come from God. One of the people that I’m closest to actually commented on it when I told them about how I’ve started to prepare for small group this upcoming year. I hadn’t even noticed the difference in my thinking until they had pointed it out, and that very truly is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Only God could have taken something so hardened and so cold within me and shattered it so completely so that a seed like this could begin to sprout out of it. I look back to all the friendships that I’ve left behind and all the people that I’ve wronged in the past, and I feel such great regret. I can only pray that they would know that I am sorry for all those moments that I tried to make myself greater than them in our peers’ eyes. It’s kind of a guilty feeling, but the Lord just comes back with even more grace and forgives me even when I feel like I can’t forgive myself. Just can’t get enough of that nectar.