We all love our country of origin, our home state, our college alma mater, our favorite sports team, and more.
But pride becomes a real issue when we love ourselves too much.
Bishop Fulton Sheen defined pride as “an inordinate love of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind or the unlawful pleasure we derive from thinking we have no superiors.”
It always bothered me in eighth grade English class when the brilliant girl in front of me would ask with a smile, “Hey, Mike, what did you get on your test?” Knowing she would always score in the 98-100 range, it was difficult for me to consistently deal with this.
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I hope these points shed some light on the varied manifestations of this capital sin, with some practical tips on how we can all grow in greater humility.
1: We are creatures, made by God for the glory of God.
St. Paul reminds us, “What have you got that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why are you boasting as if it were your own? (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Simple gestures can show a humble and grateful heart.
It is so easy to forget that the talents, gifts, and skill sets you have been given are on loan from God, and they were given to you with the hope that you would use them for his glory, not your own. I always enjoy watching a professional football player point to the sky or take a knee (Tim Tebow) after scoring a touchdown, or a professional baseball player point to the sky after hitting a home run.
These are simple gestures that show a humble and grateful heart.
2: We are here to serve, not to be served.
Jesus Christ reminds us of this truth at the washing of the feet at the Last Supper. “You call me Master and Lord, and rightly so, I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you might copy what I have done to you.” (John 13: 12).
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I am always impressed when important business leaders personally know and recognize the “invisible help” by name at their favorite restaurant or country club. It is beautiful to watch their smile and how their sense of dignity shines when their name is called, or you ask them a question about themselves.
My older sister, Deb, has been in a wheelchair with rheumatoid arthritis for 60 years now, and she has been a manager for Social Security offices her whole life. One day, she noticed the cleaning lady in the office was pregnant, so she asked if she was planning on having baby shower.
“When someone is given a great deal, a great deal will be demanded of that person.”
This lady responded that she did not have enough money to host a party and her friends could not afford to buy her gifts. So my sister called the entire staff together and decided to host a baby shower for her and her friends at the office. This made her day!
3: If you have been given more, God will expect more.
If you have been blessed with more intelligence or a better upbringing than most people, do not consider yourself superior to others, for the bar will be higher for you in the eyes of God.
Christ himself reminds us of this Gospel truth, “When someone is given a great deal, a great deal will be demanded of that person; when someone is entrusted with a great deal, of that person even more will be expected.” (Luke 12 48)
4: Learn to say thank you and I am sorry from the heart and often, especially to those whom you love.
My mother taught me and my siblings from an early age the supreme value of gratitude.
If anyone does you a favor or an act of kindness, that person has a right to be thanked for it. I can’t tell you how many thank you notes were stuffed into our mail box on a consistent basis. A spirit of ungrateful entitlement is an awful virus that only a grateful heart can conquer.
5: Humble people LISTEN with love, attention and empathy.
People can tell if you are merely enduring them or truly loving them. This is especially important in marriage, as the wife in particular does not want to feel that she is burdening or boring her husband with her problems.
A homeless women in New York City recently commented, “Reverend, there are a lot of people in this city who hear me, but nobody listens to me or really cares about me.”
You may have all the answers, you may objectively be more intelligent than the person in front of you, you may even be “right.” But everyone has a “right” to be listened to, respected, and loved.
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.