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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

The Plague of Pride

April 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Interior Freedom (Week 5 of 5)

Here it is worth reflecting on the problem of pride. We are all born with a deep wound, experienced as a lack of being. We seek to compensate by constructing a self different from our real self. This artificial self requires large amounts of energy to maintain it; being fragile, it needs protecting. Woe to anyone who contradicts it, threatens it, questions it, or inhibits its expansion. When the Gospel says we must “die to ourselves,” it means this artificial ego, this constructed self, must die, so that the real “self” given us by God can emerge. – Interior Freedom, p. 122 (Chapter V, Section 2, Paragraph 1)

The Plague of Pride

As our culture rids itself of that pesky Judeo-Christian worldview in favor of broader, more self-indulgent paths to happiness, we should recognize that there may be a few unintended consequences. Case in point: this deep wound called pride, which is a distasteful and distressing lesion affecting each and every one of us. Tragically, in a world which refuses to honor or even recognize God, this wound has begun to fester and spread, culminating in a plague which has infected virtually all of society.

In ages past, not only our parents but our schools, our culture and the world at large collaborated together to heal this wound by filling it with an antiserum –  the Judeo-Christian virtue of Humility. Throughout adolescence, we struggled against the powers that be, who firmly but lovingly redirected our eyes from the mirror, until at some point we actually turned around, and our gaze beheld the world. At that moment, our eyes were opened to all the love and beauty as well as all the hurt and suffering around us. And we realized (for the most part) that life was not about “ME.” In those bygone days, this process was otherwise known as growing up. 

Thus began our long road to maturity, as we learned firsthand the meaning of service and sacrifice. More importantly, as we grew in charity and compassion, we noticed a strange thing happening. It seemed that the more we kept our eyes on others (and away from the mirror), the happier we became – a complete paradox, not at all in line with that fleeting adolescent notion of happiness (better known as pleasure). Thank goodness those sages of yesteryear were there to set us straight!

Unfortunately, one of the side effects encountered in disposing of the Judeo-Christian worldview seems to be a state of perpetual adolescence. Today, virtually everyone is fixated on the mirror. Who is left to re-direct my gaze away from my SELF?

Wherever I turn, people are obsessed with self-expression, reeling even from selfies, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, name brands and even brand-“ing” (otherwise known as tattoos). If I feel it, I must share it. If I’m inspired by it, I must plaster it on my body for the entire world to see.  My body has become a walking billboard, because, in this state of permanent adolescence, I am desperately trying to stand out from the crowd.  Rather than take notice of the world, I am SCREAMING for the world to notice ME.

Why?

Because there is no Judeo-Christian culture left to teach me humility (the greatest of all human virtues according to Saint Francis de Sales, and the absolute antithesis of SELF).  There is no one societal value so esteemed as to turn me away from my SELF. On the contrary, society encourages me to live a life wherein my greatest concern, my greatest duty is to my SELF.

Inevitably, this wound with which I was born cannot be healed in this environment, but will grow deeper and deeper, eating away at my flesh, making its way into my very heart and soul. Yet, even as my SELF convulses in a fit of corrosion, this culture will continue to assure me that this is where I will find happiness!!!!!

Sadly, instead of happiness, the only thing I am bound to find wrapped up in my SELF is emptiness.

Contrary to popular wisdom, true happiness can only be found when I DENY my SELF. Echoing the timeless wisdom of all the saints, Saint Claude de la Colombière reminds us,

Anyone who thinks of what he is, what he has been, and what he can do of himself will find it difficult to be proud. To shatter pride it is enough to remember that the first sign of real virtue is to consider self as nothing at all. We have only to look at Jesus Christ who, emptying himself, gave all glory to his Father.  – The Spiritual Direction of Saint Claude de la Colombière, p. 77

In our current climate, these words may fall on deaf ears. But all is not lost. The truth is that the Judeo-Christian worldview cannot be cast aside. Because God cannot be cast aside. He is the only cure for what ails us. And denial of SELF is the only way to eternal life:

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

If we refuse the lures of the culture, and instead take these words to heart, forgetting our SELFs and putting on Christ, sooner or later other SELFs lost in the darkness are bound to recognize Christ’s light, and reach out in Hope.

 

ANNOUNCING OUR NEXT BOOK: We hope you enjoyed Interior Freedom! Next week, we’ll begin our new book, The Sinner’s Guide, by Venerable Louis of Granada, O.P. (beginning on April 8). You can order a copy of the book from your preferred retailer or find it in its entirety online (EWTN and Catholic Treasury are two of the places to find it online). We’ll post the reading schedule soon on the CSD book club page.

 

Reading Assignment:

NONE – We will begin our new book Next Week (See above).

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you have trouble ignoring the sirens in society, voices telling you that you must think of your SELF first?  If so, what most helps you to silence the “noise”?

2. What did you think of Interior Freedom?  Do you have any thoughts to share as we conclude this book?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week or on the book as a whole!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Lisa

    Vicki,
    How very well you have articulated the situation in our times. Fits right in with the “entitlement mentality” that is brewing among so many in our country….causing threats to precious human religious freedom liberties. “I want it, therefore, I claim a right to have it!!”

    Maybe that is why good old-fashioned chivalry, and good manners are so heart-warming. A smile, a listening ear complete with real eye contact, opening a door for another, “yes Sir,” allowing another vehicle (including those big rigs!) in heavy traffic to squeeze in before you, saying thank you, saying “I am sorry,”—–they are the “mustard seed” reminders for me that go a long way. Simply put, these acts lend themselves to service, removing the focus from “me first!” to “your needs.”
    Practicing and teaching these acts from the 4-year old on up to the parent on a daily basis becomes a real discipline. I often fall short….a lot!
    The “sirens” most difficult for me to overcome is my need to control the events of my day. I am a strong “black and white” thinker who truly does need a written list of some sort. My memory has never been my strong point — so I write down everything — the almighty to-do list. (Seems like a god at times.) 
    We homeschool our kids….major “TO–DO!!” I am attached to the “siren” of the ticking clock….trying to get it all done before time runs out; I am very result-oriented too….I want that big checkmark next to that “oh so important ‘to-do’ item (be it defrosting a chicken or grading the final draft of the essay my oldest student/victim submitted.) You get the point.
    My agenda, my timeline, my priorities, my ideas….they far too often take front and center stage compromising peace in our family. Talk about keeping the focus on SELF—yup, that is me! No tattoos, no blue hair, don’t even have or desire a facebook account, no twitter, no posting photos of our life all over the internet social media….my manifestations are of a different kind.
    The end result of these sirens — my way or the highway. When we get off track, when the flow does not go smoothly (and usually does not,) when I constantly lose my train of thoughts because of constant interruptions, when my “TO-DO” gets longer rather than shorter….I take it all too seriously and think only of how stressed I am. My volume goes up! My eyes get that crazy glazed look in them….and “tempered tempers” fly!
    How am I dealing with this? Realizing how connected it is to the sin of pride has been a revelation for me. Praying for humility and making an effort to let some things go has been helpful. I am taking baby steps but am pointed in the right direction. My prayer has changed also to assist me as I try to check in with God and His Mother and dear St Joseph throughout the day. Attending daily mass and regular visits to Adoration Hour and Confession are instruments of humility and deeper awareness. Daily visits to RC Spiritual Direction site keeps discouragement at bay. Fr. John’s online retreats have played a big role as well. The daily Examen is a must for me! These are the more effective tools I use to help silence the noise of my SELF’s sirens.
    The book was (still is as I am slowly concluding its final pages) a real eye opener for me. It has been inspiring me in ways I had not expected. I am grateful to have this timeless gem in my hands as I delve deeply into its challenges and truths.
    God bless you all — and thanks for the ways you have shared with me.

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