Oh, that sneaky little weed. So easy for it to crop up in the corners of your life. Or, you know, choke out the center of it. I’ve gone through several stages of trying to figure out what to do with the sucker.
As a child, I was extremely prideful. I was proud of reasonable things, like the fact that I was very strange, very spirited, and a thinker. I was also proud of unreasonable things like the fact that I’d been born in a foreign country (which I had absolutely nothing to do with causing) and that I’d gotten the chance to co-pilot a little airplane once (also something I had little to do with).
Then it occurred to me one day (after having my ego singed by a girl who managed to one-up me on every point that arose) that this pride was causing me to be a grandstanding pestilence. I determined, then, not to be prideful—and as a primary first step, to stop trying to maneuver conversations in such a way that I could casually drop comments indicating how awesome I was.
I did try for the next few years, and tried very hard, to suppress that pride. There, I came up against another difficulty: aren’t you supposed to have some pride? You know, self-confidence and pride in a job well done and all that rot. So I stumbled back and forth like a drunk trying to walk a line, because I wasn’t entirely sure where the line was even drawn.
I discussed the issue with one of my amazing big sisters, and what she said has always stuck with me, though due to the passing of years, I can only paraphrase the idea.
“I think pride,” she said, “lies in comparing yourself to others. To think yourself higher than others, that’s pride. But to think yourself lower than others, that comes from pride, too. That’s still based on ego, on self-absorption.”
The demon in C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters puts it another way: “The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents–or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”
Is it possible to create without comparing? Maybe, maybe not entirely. Is it worth giving a go? Heck yes.
Stay tuned for part two, in which I consider the liberal use of DDT and Uncle Screwtape warns against inciting amusement…