Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pride (And Appearances)

           In my blog yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Chesterton about humility. He describes a difference between the old humility (spurs people on) and the new humility (decreases forward motivation). If nothing else, I hope that people can see this very valuable point: There is more than one definition of humility being used in culture, and not all of the definitions are helpful to a person trying to grow in true humility.

In this post, I'm going to talk about the surface issues of pride and humility, and then dive deeper into underlying causes. This is a hard-hitting subject. If you read the first couple points and feel very agitated, please go ahead and close the browser window until you feel better about the situation. Other, objectivity will have escaped.
Pride: A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people; a feeling that you are more important or better than other people.
                                                    Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In other words, pride can be described as an attitude of superiority, the internal thought of feeling that “I am better than you.”

Now, where does such an attitude come from?  No one is truly better than any other human; usually, though, we wish to think that we are better than others *if* we judge others. We wouldn't want to face our own condemnation, and so we want to believe that we are better than those we judge.

If a person has pride, what is likely to follow?

1 – They do not heed correction

            The easiest way to check for pride is to notice what your natural response to criticism is. Do you brittle and feel attacked?  Or do you get excited at the possibility of your own improvement and say "Tell me more!" ?    Proud people are uncomfortable with knowing about their own flaws, and so the downsides of having to learn that they are in the wrong overshadow the benefits of repenting from something that's holding them back.
But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, And did not heed Your commandments. - Nehemiah 9:16
They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. - Proverbs 1:30

2 – They do not accept grace (help to become better)

            Why would they want help to become better?  They are good enough as they are (in their mind)!  God offers grace, but the proud pass on by.  They do not enjoy getting help.  They hold on to their own self-respect (self-sufficiency), and they will usually turn on anyone who points out the problems in order to offer grace or assistance.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” - James 4:6
Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.  - Proverbs 18:12

3 – It pains them to admit flaws            Why do the proud hate correction and assistance?  Is it just some in-born trait?  Well no, the problem is that it pains them to see specific ways in which they are sinful and flawed.  It hurts.  In their mind, they are happily ignorance of their flaws.  But these flaws will catch up with them later, if ignorance remains:
[God will] look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low - Job 40:12
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

4 – Others will notice contempt from them / They act like a person must be good enough in order to receive affection

            Probably most of the time, proud people are not the ones to notice that they proud. Other people start to notice when a proud person is proud, because that proud person will behave (act, speak, tones, body language) in ways that show contempt or disdain for others.

This goes deeper.  The proud only treat people with affection and kindness IF those people are good enough. The lie that they believe and practice is this:  "You must be good enough to receive love and affection."  This lie is why it pains them to see errors in themselves; they feel a loss of love if they notice that they are not good enough.   To be proud is to look down upon the imperfect, rather than to love and show affection to the imperfect.
Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorn of those who are at ease. With the contempt of the proud.   Psalm 123:4

5 – Therefore, when they give affection to themselves, they hide their own flaws from themselves

            True agape love for self includes disciplining self, but since the proud feel that they must be good enough before getting affection, they try to take care of themselves by *not* looking for or listening to input about their flaws.  Pride ultimately leads to an inaccurate view of self.
By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom. - Proverbs 13:10

Let him not trust in futile things [like his own righteousness], deceiving himself, for futility will be his reward. - Job 15:31

6 – Therefore, when they give affection to others they respect, they do not use rebuke.

            Similar to the way that they treat themselves, proud people do not believe in rebuking or correcting those they respect.  And if they see someone else correcting someone they respect, they usually will feel like rebuking *that* person for not be "humble enough."
Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Proverbs 27:5


Now the amazing thing about where this ends up is that it looks like humility. To a proud person, humility looks like not confronting other people. After all (in their mind), confrontation is offensive and unloving because it can make others feel attacked, and telling another beggar where to find bread is claiming that you know where the bread is (thinking that you are right). So, by the time a proud person makes it to effect number 6, they can be convinced that they are humble, and anyone who 
confronts them is proud. Their self-righteousness continues.

This type of pride accepts the "new humility" (doubting one's beliefs and aims) and does not accept or enjoy the old humility (having conviction of the aim, but doubting to what extent one meets those goals).

Next, onto the opposite of pride!
Humility: Not thinking of yourself as better than other people; an accurate estimation of self
If a person has humility, what does that look like?

1 – They see us all as loved sinners

            To be humble is to view yourself as imperfect like everyone else is, and to view all imperfect people as lovable. (For if you view yourself the same as everyone else, and then wish to kill everyone, that ends in murder-suicide and is *not* the right type of humble). Therefore, there is no internal need to prove oneself “good enough” in order to see self as lovable.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

2 – They embrace neediness and ask for things

            Imperfection and neediness go hand in hand. We have some natural neediness (being human), and it's good to come to grips with that. But after, our very imperfections make us more needy – we need grace, we need help, we need more truth, we need counsel and love and confrontation.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

3 – They admit flaws and welcome feedback

            Humble people already know that they are imperfect, and they don't feel threatened by the fact. Therefore, they are willing to see areas of specific imperfections, and can focus on the bigger benefits of long term improvement and gain. The more truth and character you have, the better your life goes.
Hear instruction and be wise; do not disdain it. - Proverbs 8:33
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. - Proverbs 27:6

For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. - Proverbs 8:11

4 – They receive and enjoy things from God

            Humble people are more than ready to ask for help, to receive grace, to be open and honest with God about flaws, and to enjoy the results of someone else's labor (God's). They do not need to be self-sufficient, because they can get everything they need from others. Even their own confidence is found not in their own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ which has been freely given to them.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. - Matthew 7:7

5 – They lead others and offer advice

            There's a difference between being bossy and being a leader. Being a leader means that you go ahead of others, are glad for where you've gotten, and invite others to utilize the same path. A humble person who sees the value of input for self, will give valuable input to others who they love. A humble person teaching is like a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. 


Now the amazing thing about where this ends up is that, to proud people, it looks like pride. One reason for this is that a humble person finds himself both imperfect and lovable, he loves his neighbor as he loves himself.  Those who do not accept themselves (proud people, people who believe that being good enough must come before acceptance) view self-love as pride.  Similarly, proud people will think that conviction/confidence is superiority, because confidence means that you accept that point of view over other points of view.  Telling someone where to find bread is offensive if, to them, it implies that you're proud to think that you have the correct answer about where food is. 

Humble people have to be careful to avoid giving valuable advice to those who do not value it, who will throw it away and despise truth.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. - Proverbs 23:9
This humility is the "old humility" (having conviction of the aim, but doubting to what extent one meets those goals). Conviction about aims can turn people off to the message, so it takes discernment.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Dislocation of Humility

         It is only with one aspect of humility that we are here concerned: Humility was largely meant as a restraint upon the arrogance and infinity of the appetite of man. He was always outstripping his mercies with his own newly invented needs. His very power of enjoyment destroyed half his joys. By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise. Hence it became evident that if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.

Even the haughty visions, the tall cities, and the toppling pinnacles are the creations of humility. Giants that tread down forests like grass are the creations of humility. Towers that vanish upwards above the loneliest star are the creations of humility. For towers are not tall unless we look up at them; and giants are not giants unless they are larger than we. All this gigantesque imagination, which is, perhaps, the mightiest of the pleasures of man, is at bottom entirely humble. It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything -- even pride.

But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt -- the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic.

The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. 

For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

At any street corner we may meet a man who utters [the frantic] statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one (in his eyes), or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern sceptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.

By C.K. Chesterton, from his book, "Orthodoxy"

See also:  Loving Correction and True Estimate of Self

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Curse of Contentment

As people start into Lent, one general topic that comes up is contentment. Oftentimes, when people talk about contentment, they are referring to a lack of desire for more. That's the type of contentment I am writing about today, and in specific, I am writing about a lack of desire for spiritual things.

When any of us accepts Christ as Savior, we reject the old religion of the world:  Put on your best behavior, and be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We reject this religion in favor of the truth that we are NOT good enough, but we are deeply and truly loved by God - and we would be wise to ask for help so that our future doesn't have to be so terrible (sin and sad consequences).

If someone comes to your turf, walks up to you, and criticizes you, what is your (current) natural reaction:  Is it to feel hurt that someone so close to you is misunderstanding you; do you go on to justify yourself and disprove them?  Or is it excitement at the possibility of being able to receive more spiritual blessings from God?

The first reaction can be called defensive (I'm fine where I'm at), while the second reaction can be called upgrade-oriented (Want).

After we become Christians, I think that probably all of us go through a stage in our life where we fall back into the mental voice:  Put on your best behavior, be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We try our best, and then we are content with where we are at. We are fine. We can't complain. We are doing better than we deserve. We are tired. It doesn't feel like abundant living because it *isn't* abundant living, and we are content to stay here. This is "good enough" and if anyone is judgmental enough to try to point out our flaws, we feel that we have every right to get upset. They are walking about looking for flaws to critique. What jerks!  We commend ourselves on our patience and good temper if we can defend ourselves to these people without losing our temper at their presumption.

But as long as we remain in this stage, we are the Laodicean church. While Jesus stands outside and knocks, we ignore the door and talk about how we are perfectly content where we are. While He counsels us to buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we may be rich, we continue to respond: "I am rich, I have become wealthy, and I have need of nothing."  

While we are thinking, "Why is this person ripping on me?" Jesus is telling us: "As many as I love (desire to benefit), I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (accept upgrades)."

Accepting Upgrades: Growth is *accepting* (not building) something from God.  The reason we are being confronted is not that we just need to try even harder and spread ourselves even thinner to get any appreciation, but rather that we are suffering from the lack of spiritual blessings that God is offering to us (and we are busy telling him that we are good enough).

And what is the alternative to being fine where we're at?

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested."  (1 Chronicles 4:10)

"Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.'
But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'

...Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.'
And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there."   (Genesis 32)  [Extra note: Jesus Christ, Immanuel, that is the name of God. The Israelites were the first ones to meet God by name in person.]

"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?' Elisha said, 'Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.'

So he said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.' Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it..."    (2 Kings 2 )

What do you desire?  For me, I want God. I really really want God. I want upgrades and spiritual blessings. I know that I am loved (and therefore I don't need to be good enough). I do not focus on "good enough" and "bad," but rather "less awesome" and "more awesome." I always want to be more awesome. Therefore, I beg God for more understanding than I have now (He also uses people in this process to confront me or prove me wrong), and every time I hear of a possible flaw (which tips me off to a possible upgrade that I might now be able to access) I am happy and curious to know more details. I enjoy where I'm at in my journey, but I am never content to stay - I want MORE Jesus.

I think that God gives grace to the humble because they are the only ones who truly desire it. The proud would never acknowledge that they are spiritually poor, and therefore do not desire help.  Now, God is not stingy - He has an infinite amount of the stuff, and if you aren't using it, then that extra capacity is just going to waste.  Therefore God encourages us to ask him for things (Mt 5) and delights to give it to us when we ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  - James 1:5

Dream big. Abraham dreamed of being a father of nations, since that's what his name was all about. But that dream died after he reached old age without children. In the end, though, God's plan for him was for him to be a father of nations - God was the one to plant that desire.

Desire. Ask God for more. Don't turn away potential upgrades when they are offered (in the form of painful feedback from reality, most often).

How do you know whether you desperately need more truth and a deeper relationship with Christ?  If you have a pulse, you do.  It's not a one-time transaction where you accept Christ into your life and then all your needs are met. It's an ongoing relationship - we are like a stream of water. Unless we want to become become a stagnant algae-filled swamp, we must *always* be getting more and more from God (water flowing in) and passing along to others what we ourselves have received (water flowing out).

So, people who are "fine," you need more Jesus. And, people who are very mature (maturing) and have a deep and close relationship with Christ, you need more Jesus.  It's awesome, because He wants us to want Him enough to wrestle with Him - He desires to give good things to those who would enjoy them.