Thursday, September 03, 2015

Pride - One of the Seven Deadlies

"It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes [us] as angels." - Augustine.

To be sure, there are things that I don't mind saying I am proud of: I am proud of my daughter, I am proud of the pastors and churches in the district I serve, I am proud of the way my wife is trying to handle a parent in a nursing home along with an older brother who needs family help, I am proud of the staff that I work with every day. In that sense, "being proud" means being pleased for and about the actions and achievements of others.

When it comes to pride equating to vanity or excessive assurance in one's own gifts or abilities, then we have a problem, because pride inherently discounts God's grace. One could say that all of our sins arise from pride, one of the "seven deadly" sins. I am entering a season of my life where I will place myself in front of, and at the will of, the Church in a way I never have before. I know that the temptations of pride and arrogance will rear their heads to sway me to their bidding, and I pray that my arms might remain open to grace.

I received a life lesson the other day. It was a bit painful to the body, but much more painful to my pride: I had a motorcycle spill (to call it a wreck would be hyperbole). After a 20+ mile ride from work, about 500 feet from my house I had a spill. A squirrel was in the street and I slowed down, almost to a stop. The squirrel couldn't make his/her mind up which way to go. My head didn't overrule my heart and I swerved to miss it, lacking enough speed to maintain the bike upright. So the bike and I went down, both sliding on the pavement.

Crash bar and resulting road rash.
I was mad. Mad at myself for the mental error. Mad at the squirrel. Mad about the few hundred dollars of damage to the bike. Mad about the skin missing from my elbow. A guy behind me witnessed the whole thing (was a motorcycle rider himself), stopped, helped me and the bike up, and helped me bend the crash bar back so I could ride it home.

This guy was a little earthy looking, said a few choice words about the people who drove by and didn't help, but he put it all into perspective: "I saw the whole thing. I'm glad you're walking away from it." Then he looked at my bike, saying, "Those crash bars worked like they're supposed to. You know, any of us who ride are gonna do this before it's over with. Looks like you're good to go, brother." Then he slapped my shoulder and winked: "Next time, run over the damned squirrel."

He was right: I walked away with minimal damage to me or my motorcycle. A stranger reminded me of the grace that I should have felt instead of the pride that I thought had taken a beating. The bottom line was I was more worried about what people would think instead of being thankful I was okay.

Grace is a gift that we often aren't willing to receive, mainly because pride gets in the way. This quote brings it home to me: "Life makes fools of us sooner or later. But keep your sense of humor and you'll at least be able to take your humiliations with some measure of grace. In the end, you know, its our own expectations that crush us." (from Skippy Dies, by Irish author Paul Murray).

Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within...