Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moments of Containing the Ego

“‘Though you soar like the eagle

and make your nest among the stars,

from there I will bring you down,’

declares the LORD.”

—Obadiah 1:4 (NIV).

Life is a variously a juggling act, a tightrope walk, and a tip-toeing through the tulips. And a key part of our problems exists squarely in the sin of pride. Ah, that glowing fascia of pride and how it encumbers us—anchoring us in our inglorious humanity. Containing the ego, it seems, is the final frontier in the development of character.

Searching the Bible of the word, “pride,” there are 63 hits in the New International Version. Almost all of these are mentioned in the context of a future fall from grace, a distance from God’s will, or other. Only a handful of times is “pride” used in a positive sense regarding the state of a conquering nation. Of course, we know pride precedes a fall (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18; 29:23).

It’s like the person born with the silver spoon protruding straight and proud from their mouths, or that person who’s had the dream ride. They’re beneficiaries of life circumstances and are no better than the next person—indeed, they’re worse off because of their position:

“And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.”

—James 1:10 (NLT).

Of course most of the rich do not boast about God humbling them; they imagine their wealth as an ‘unscaleable wall’ (Proverbs 18:11). But it’s not only the rich who suffer with errant pride, for God gives the emotion of self-satisfaction to everyone to use as we please as a part of our free-willed nature.

And a healthy satisfaction is not really the problem. Satisfaction to things is a godly response. It’s only when it gets out of control and deceives us that it becomes the problem antecedent to the fall that’s about to happen (though we’re strangely never aware of it at the time as our pride has blinded us—hindsight being the only trigger to recognise pride in our fault).

I mentioned previously that it’s the final frontier of character development—the self-controlled use or exercise of pride, or more positively put the warrant development of humility. This is pride’s rank opposite—the virtue that obliterates the deadliness of the sin.

And how would we accurately guide someone toward humility? Perhaps we’d say that to remain humble we’d need the constant presence of mind of our place in God’s creation; that everything we do, think, feel and say is open to the judgment of God (often through others); that when we succeed we’re right to feel good, but we should order it in a self-controlled fashion; that we’re not to think others are better or worse than we are, but that they’re equal to us.

Whole theses have been written on the virtue of humility. It remains for us to come to know the spin-off facts of holding humility as a chief state of character—and the blessings that normally follow.

And for that moment when we do successfully beat off the temptation to massage our egos, containing them, we can simply praise God. It is knowledge of him and his way for us that simply make this tender truth work for us. We thank him for a working understanding of this, finally.

Humility has to be the chief wellspring for wisdom; certainly in Western culture.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

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