“The proud hold me in utter contempt . . .” (Psalm 119:51). As I meditated upon these words, two prayers came to mind.
The first was: Lord, keep me from pride and arrogance. Help me to be humble.
Pride is sneaky.
C.S. Lewis observes of pride
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free . . . the essential vice, the utmost evil is Pride. . . . [I]t was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
[T]he worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life. . . . If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. . . . If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.1
It seems to me that humility—pride’s opposite—is the fruit of the Spirit (Col. 3:12). So the plea, “Help me to be humble” is in fact a cry for more of Him and less of me.
Now, this doesn’t mean I am to think less of myself. (I fail to see how mulling over what an incredibly horrible person I am benefits anything. Jesus calls me to think beautiful thoughts of Him, not ugly thoughts of me.)
Morbid introspection can be a mental morass.
Thus, the Spirit probably won’t produce His humility in us by us thinking less of ourselves. Rather, as the Spirit does His quiet work in us, we will be thinking of ourselves less. (Yes, there’s a difference between thinking less of oneself and thinking of oneself less.)
The second prayer was: Lord, keep me from holding others in contempt.
How quickly and easily I look down on others!
But if I shouldn’t despise myself; should I despise others?
Hastily dismissing and holding folks in contempt are par for the course in our national—and sadly in our religious—conversations.
The divided political, cultural, and religious climate in our country encourages mutual demonization when we discover unbridgeable differences of conviction. . . . Everywhere we look we see relationships collapsing in mutual incomprehension and demonization. It is so sad.2
My prayer is that we would learn to think, listen, and speak humbly; that we would elevate our thoughts regarding those with whom we disagree.
I’m praying but I’m not holding my breath.
Hmmm. Guess I need to work on that whole faith thingy now…
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.p. 94,97,99
2David P. Gushee, Still Christian, p. 100