‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?’
Remember this line from the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’? A lovely tale that I enjoy to this day! Snow White’s stepmother, the evil queen, was so proud of her beauty that she flew into a furious rage to hear her magic mirror say that Snow White was more beautiful than her and plotted to kill Snow White. It’s another thing that the story has a happy ending (as most stories do) with Snow White in the arms of a charming prince and the evil queen banished from the kingdom.
Simply put, pride is the feeling of ‘I am better than others’. This feeling may creep in owing to the knowledge one possesses, the success one achieves, the looks (beauty) one has, the successful relationships one enjoys, the riches and material possessions one has in the coffers, the sound health that one has or the skills one possesses. Pride is an abstract intangible destructive mental construct that often finds expression in behavioural paradigms.
The more one dwells on ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’, the more haughty one becomes. There is a fine line between the feeling of satisfaction/contentment/happiness and pride. To feel happy, contented and satisfied about something is beneficial and propels one for further good. However, pride never leads to beneficial consequences. That is why, pride is not to be harboured.
- Pride enshrouds Reality – Reality says that there are many others better than me. But, the more I dwell upon a ‘me’ that I think is the best, the more ignorance I feign of my true identity. And so I learn to live in a bubble which stays put for a short while.
- Pride averts Acceptance – Since I mask my true identity, I evade acceptance of certain infallible truths about me. This lack of acceptance leads to a state of cognitive dissonance which leads to errant decision making.
- Pride arrests Progress – Progress in any area of life is the product of an honest assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Pride refuses to acknowledge weaknesses by camouflaging them and hoisting a pretentious facade of strengths. And so, roadblocks to progress are bound to appear sooner or later. All forward movements stop. There occurs either a standstill or backward drift.
- Pride precedes Failure – ‘Pride goes before a fall’ is a well-known adage that withstood the test of times. A haughty person may not experience immediate failure. In fact, that is what keeps him/her proud. However, the bubble is due to burst in time and the downward spiral begins. The Bible says, “. . . whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased . . .”
- Pride is a Sin and leads to sin – No matter how less or more debilitating the consequences of pride, it must be understood that pride is a sin. Pride is an offense against God. Anything good that one thinks to be proud of is a blessing of God. It is easy to think with our finite minds that many accomplishments in life are the outcomes of our own efforts. But, it is mere foolishness to harbour such thoughts! If I have a melodious voice/ good looks and am praised for it, the glory belongs to the One who has made my voice or looks so – and not to me who is a mere carrier of the voice or looks, because I have not created any atom of myself. To take the glory of God upon oneself is a sin. Not only is pride a sin, it leads to further sinful acts, just like the evil queen in the Snow White story was proud enough of her beauty so as to attempt to have Snow White killed. Pride cannot tolerate competition. Hence, cheating, lying, deceit, murders, and crimes occur as after effects of pride.
A wise king once wrote a proverb – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”
At the opposite end of the continuum is humility. To be humble simply means to be unassuming and down-to-earth. Humility doesn’t mean being a doormat. Humility is an attitude of the heart which does not hoist ‘self’ on a pedestal. A humble person doesn’t live by ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’. S/he doesn’t beat her/his own drum doesn’t do things to earn self-glory nor causes harm to others for self-gain.
Humility is a virtue scarce in the world today. Many motivational speakers give the suggestion that one needs to project himself/herself before others at any cost, because no one else will bother to put him/her in the limelight. True, we are living in a world where there is a mad rush for recognition and prominence. But, have we ever spared a thought, who are we demanding the recognition from? From people, organizations, authorities, society? None of these recognitions would last forever. Today’s dignitary is tomorrow’s statistic.
It is foolishness to harbour pride and enjoy momentary glory than to go unnoticed in favour of eternal recognition and glory. Our journey on earth is just a small lap of the extensive journey of eternity. To be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker at the end of this earthly journey would be a thrill to bask in for eternity.
One cannot learn to be humble from any of the self-help books on the shelves. A humble spirit is one that thrives on constant acknowledgment of God over self. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Isn’t God’s favour of much more worth than the accolades of men that pride would earn? It surely would give more contentment to receive the applause of God, which seems elusive but is a certainty.
Humility is an attribute perceived by onlookers, never identified or endorsed by self. Watch out for a person who says of himself/herself, “I am a humble person”. S/he is definitely not!
“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” – THE BIBLE
“Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.”
– ANDREW MURRAY