There is a sin that all of us who are not saints battle. It is the sin of pride. It causes division within ourselves and in our relationships with other people. We see the devastating impacts of pride in our families, friendships, relationships with co-workers, strangers, and in the inner-workings of the Church.
Pride is the original sin through which we desire to be God, to always be right, and to have power. No joy can come from pride, but we continue on this path in vain. It is only through an emptying out of ourselves that we are able to grow in humility and abandon pride through the grace God gives to us. It is when we forget ourselves that we are filled up and our relationships become what God means for them to be and we are infused with joy.
Love is not competitive. It does not seek power or to rule others. Instead love shows us how to turn towards others without concern for our own desires. In giving completely of ourselves we receive back infinitely more than we could have expected.
Christ shows us this lesson at the Last Supper when he washes His disciples feet. Christ the King of the Universe stoops to wash the feet of men who will, in a few short hours, flee from Him, except for St. John.
After He has washed their feet, He says:
“You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’ From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me (John 13:13-20).”
Our Lord shows all of us what love and service look like in action. It is to leave behind desires for power, prestige, and control. It is to relinquish our grip on the petty things we hold onto so tightly. He invites us to a new way of growing in communion with others: the way of love and humility.
It is the path of humility and self-forgetfulness that helps us grow in love of God and our neighbor. When we stand before our neighbor we no longer look at them as a competitor who stands in opposition to all of our desires. Instead, we see them as our brother and sister who is loved by God as much as we are and we desire to be united to them in the fraternal bond of charity we share in Christ. We begin to see the light of Christ in each person and to treat them with the love, dignity, and respect they deserve. It is to put their needs above our own. In our fear and sin we think we will lose everything we want and need, but in truth, we will find ourselves in this pouring out.
Our lives are transformed when we begin to see Christ in others. Our relationships deepen and become more still and restful. They become a place of rejuvenation instead of frustration and fatigue. It is exhausting having to placate the ego in its lust for pride and vanity. We become more and more free as we let go of our small-minded desire for power and control. We all do it. We do it in our families, at work, and even in ministry. In reality, we are called to relinquish it all and give it back to God so He can teach us how to love and serve Him and our neighbor.
As our relationships with other people deepen, grow, and mature we will discover the communion we are made to share with one another in heaven. We will come to understand that pride impedes our progress. It is a heavy and destructive sin. It causes us to scatter and mistrust one another. Humility recognizes that we are all loved by God and therefore should ‘love one another as He has loved us’ (1 John 4:7).
Consider how much our lives would change if we stopped grasping at power. If we focus on viewing our neighbor in a charitable light and we work to forget always having it our own way. God will reward us with great peace, stillness, and love of our neighbor if rather than placating our egos, we seek the humble places offered to us that we often ignore. We crave this place of rest, even if we can’t see it right now.
Pride is the sin of Lucifer and it is the sin that causes the most division and pain both within the Church and without. We are not in competition with one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ made for the joy of everlasting life, but we can’t get there on our own. God has united us to one another and so we must learn to abandon ourselves in love of Him so that we can learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The next time we sense competition arising between one of our brothers and sisters, let’s remember to step back in humility and love. We don’t always have to be right, often we aren’t.