One of my biggest faults is pride. I constantly, implicitly and explicitly, think and act as if I am better than the vast majority of the world. I have a few favorite sins that I don’t struggle with and place them mentally as the greatest sins of all while ignoring my own sins I see to be minor. As I become more aware of my own faults I realize how desperately I need to be called out and corrected by those around me. Alone I can spiral in my thoughts into believing I am somehow above the day-to-day struggle with sin. I can sit and languish in the gifts God gave me and spend my time talking about the evils, failings, and stupidity of others.
When I was reading with my fiancée Three to Get Married by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, I stumbled across this curious quote: “The history of mysticism reveals that temptations of the flesh become less as one gets closer to God, although the temptations to pride may increase” (Chapter 2). Before I go forward, I am not so noble as to not struggle with sins of the flesh. To even think I am beyond fleshly sins is a joke, I am not. I don’t mean to bring up this quote to imply that I have moved beyond the sins of the flesh. Rather I wish to say that I struggle with both and this quote helps me identify a sin that hides behind a mask of holy pretense.
Sometimes, especially when I am in the deepest roots of my pride, I will look at the sins and failings of others with disdain and think myself above them. These moments often come right after a spiritual high, when I have been particularly good in praying regularly or when fasting. It is not the case that growing closer to God leads me to pride, rather that in those moments of spiritual concolation, the devil will still strive to drive me away from God.
In the tumultuous political times that we live in, it is easy enough to look at the sin of those in this world and focus on fighting against the evil from outside. While this is good in itself, it is important to remind ourselves that we have the greatest ability to fight evil in our own spiritual life. So let us pray for one another that we may always seek God and live out our lives with humility.
After finishing my personal reflection, I had some notes for practical reference. First, here is a list of signs from St. Josemaria that suggest you lack humility:
- Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say;
- Always wanting to get your own way;
- Arguing when you are not right or—when you are—insisting stubbornly or with bad manners;
- Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so;
- Despising the point of view of others;
- Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan;
- Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own;
- Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;
- Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you;
- Making excuses when rebuked;
- Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you;
- Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you;
- Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you;
- Refusing to carry out menial tasks;
- Seeking or wanting to be singled out;
- Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…;
- Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…
Second, a great quote from C.S. Lewis on a humble man:
“To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
—Mere Christianity, “The Great Sin”