Pride is known as the queen of all the deadly sins, and we’ve revisited the Fall – the Original Sin — in Scripture these past few days in the Liturgical Year. The temptation to put ourselves before God remains ever-before us, and this can show up in our homes in ways we may not always be aware. Embracing humility at home also poses challenges. What’s your spiritual credit score?
Pride in laymen’s terms means thinking a lot of oneself. A proud person forgets his imperfect and sinful nature. The proud person forgets his utter dependence on the Creator and Redeemer. In the process – even in infinitesimal moments of forgetfulness – the proud person turns his back on God while stuck gazing in the proverbial mirror. Sometimes that mirror holds only our face in its distortive gaze; other times it holds our family.
Family-sized portions of pride
As parents we are told to take pride in our family. We encourage our children to achieve good grades, and we hope they will land solid jobs and find good spouses, if they choose the vocation of marriage. We encourage the aspirations of our children. We support and cheer on our children’s successes. We bubble with pride when they succeed.
As we hug them in congratulations, no doubt we subtly pat our backs as well, pleased by whatever ways we may have contributed to their success. To be a “proud parent” is considered a virtue. To encourage our children to take pride on themselves becomes a mark of enlightened parenting. Taking pride in our spouse seems an exercise in fidelity. Take pride in your work, we are told.
Where is the line between appropriate and inappropriate pride? The key is to look to the source. Do we think ourselves (our children or spouse) is the source of our strengths? Do we see our children’s successes as their own, or ours to share in? Or, do we attribute these successes to their true source: the grace and gifts God has given them and us? It’s not in the celebrating where the problems enters, but in the acknowledgements. To whom do we give credit?
Where’s God in your Credit Score?
When we don’t keep our eyes on God, we distort the order of creation, and we risk putting ourselves or our family – even in these small moments – in that self-reflective mirror, rather than seeing ourselves and others in the embrace of an omnipresent loving God. He is the source of our gifts; He prompts and sustains the good use we make of our gifts.
Instead of taking pride, we are to exercise gratitude. And, we need to identify the source of our gratitude in God first, and in our gifts and successes as originating in our loving God.
Gratitude requires a posture of humility. The good that I do is through Him who is the source of good. I am His fruit when I stay close to the tree which bore and bears me – that means both God as Creator and as our Savior who hung from the tree of the Cross — to expiate our sins and restore us to heaven.
Standing tall vs. bowing meekly
Humility requires reorienting family life in radical ways. Instead of seeing what we have and hold as ours, we need to consider them on loan from God. Our spouses, our children, and all the blessings of family life are lent to us — for a time. We are stewards of the goods our loving God shares with us in this earthly life – the people as well as the material goods. He is the source of each good; and he sustains us in the proper exercise of these goods.
We mess up badly when we imagine we have achieved, deserve or “own” the goods He shares with us. Instead of focusing on that which we’ve “earned,” we need to focus on He who has shared blessings with us. Likewise, as we practice the posture of gratitude toward God, so we need to show gratitude to others whom God has placed in our lives to bless us: our children, our spouses, our neighbors.
Embracing struggles & suffering
When you stand tall, you see what’s coming. When you kneel with your head bowed, you may be struck unaware. Isn’t that what hardships feel like: They strike us unaware? The proud person responds to hardship as injustices, or they may moan “woe is me.”
But, if we keep our eyes on our loving God, then we accept the good and the bad with humility. We know we are entrusted with the full, sometimes heavy, satchel of hardships to prepare us for our heavenly crown of glory. What God does not hand to us, he allows, with always our good and others’ in mind.
Getting our mirrors out of the way in our relationship to God
In Jewish tradition, when someone dies they hold “shiva,” a time of mourning and remembering. Mirrors are covered while holding “shiva” in a home. This is to help mourners focus on the one who has died rather than oneself. Also, mirrors are covered because “shiva” is a prayer service: God must be the focus and not self.
Let’s hold “shiva” for the suffering and death of our Lord this Lent. Let’s cover those invisible mirrors that pop up in our spirits and endanger us with subtle forms of pride. Let us embrace humility by recognizing our Creator and Redeemer of all that we experience in family life – the benefits and challenges. All are blessings are granted or allowed by our good God. Let’s give him the credit, and keep our eyes focused on Him in our families this Lent.
Remember we already have the best mirror before us, because “God created us in His image.” (Genesis 1:27).