Humbled: Escaping the universe of pride

When I was on the cusp of adolescence, my mother gave me a card on which were emblazoned these plaintive words of Thomas Merton: “Deliver me from pride, which is the heaviest of burdens.” Of course, I had no idea why my mother would think Merton’s prayer was one I should make my own, so I stashed the card away, certain that pride might be somebody else’s problem but would never be mine.

That deception did me in. Pride is a subtle, sneaky vice, and it lured me into its world even though I had no idea that that was where I was living. But pride went to work on me, and because I did little to hinder it, pride did its work exceedingly well. Beguiled by its logic, I began to invest far too much of my identity in having to be better than everybody at something, never realizing that always having to be above and ahead of others is a very lonely place to be. I worried more about grades than real learning, cared too much about others’ opinions and was pretty sure a good life was one in which everything worked to my own best advantage. I took myself way too seriously while not taking others seriously enough.

I was keenly aware of my gifts—and always gratified when they were acknowledged—but would feel the pinch of envy whenever the successes of others were celebrated. And because I thought all was well with me, I was dangerously blind to my capacity to hurt and oblivious of how thinking so highly of myself often left me judging others harshly. Nestled in the universe of pride, I could not see that until I crossed the threshold and entered the world of humility I wouldn’t really live, because I would never escape a world that was no bigger than myself.