Defeating pride by embracing humility Print
Everyday Faith

Everyday Faith column by Julianne Nornberg

In my not-so-distant past, four tired children hung on all sides of my overflowing shopping cart as the checkout line inched along.

After a taxing trip through the grocery store, during which my baby had tossed packaged meat out of the cart, their little whining voices were suddenly making my eye twitch.

I was losing my patience.

I glanced behind me at the elderly lady watching everything, and my heart burst into flames of humiliation.

My children were not meeting my expectations, and I was mortified. I'd seen other perfectly well-behaved children pass through the checkout line with unscathed mothers. And my children had done so many a time.

Just not today.

So why did their behavior bother me so much this day?

The many forms of pride

Because of exhaustion and human weakness, yes, but maybe at a deeper level, because of pride, the root of many sins.

I've never been so aware of different forms of pride since I became a mom.

I've never been one to care much about the clothes we wear or the kind of car we drive, but I do care deeply about the behavior of my children. Not only because it exhibits their character, but because it reflects the efforts of my and my husband's parenting skills.

Is that pride? Yes, it is indeed, because I get caught up in what I can do, not what God can do through me.

Spiritual journey

The older I get, the more I begin to see what a tiny babe I am on my own spiritual journey. So how can I possibly lead my own children on theirs?

The answer to this, as to so many things, is: I can't, but God can.

The more I realize how little I am, the more I lean on God. And just as He holds tightly to me, so I cling tightly to my children. And hopefully, with complete humility and the openness to His goodness, I can become merely a vehicle for His grace.

There is no room for pride in this picture, no room for humiliation or petty human feelings of dejection. A certain detachment to these things is required in order to let pride pass you by.

Recently I read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, in which Lewis dedicates a whole chapter on pride, "The Great Sin." If you haven't read this gem of a book, make it a top priority, for it contains so many nuggets of timeless wisdom.

"The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble -- delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life" (p. 127).

"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," Lewis says. "If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed" (p. 128).

Increase humility

So when I have my next humiliating moment in the grocery store, let me see it as an opportunity to increase humility and quash pride. Just whisper a simple prayer: "Lord, I offer this moment of humiliation as a sacrifice for (name). Give me the grace to increase my humility."

For when we parents truly see ourselves as mere vehicles through which God can help our children, there is no pride involved, only humility.

The more quickly we can recognize and shed the deceptive shell of pride in all its forms, the more quickly we can grow closer to God -- and bring our children with us.

Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.