I’m Not Better than Anyone
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Romans 12:16
A few years ago, while in New York, I ran into a celebrity. He was incognito, hoping to avoid being noticed by others, but I recognized him due to a minor facial deformity. Being unaccustomed to meeting celebrities, I abruptly told him how I recognized him by his deformity. This was apparently a magical phrase to scare him away from me – the crazy fan. He couldn’t get away from me fast enough as I was left standing there in horror at the stupid thing that had just come out of my mouth. I tried to follow, explain, and repair my faux pas, but it was too late. The damage was done, and he wanted nothing further to do with me. He was a big deal, and I was an irritation – a nobody.
I don’t hold this against him and I’m not suggesting that he acted inappropriately. I only tell the story to illustrate the similar attitude which I’ve unfortunately had towards those I’ve seen as beneath me. I do spend time going to jail (or I did before Covid restrictions) and I spend a fair amount of time in treatment centers. I regularly bump elbows with those whom society may consider lowly. In fact, I find some pride my willingness to do this.
Every once in a while, though, when someone is getting out of jail or treatment, I’m faced with the possibility that he may show up in my day to day life. This is disconcerting. I don’t mind investing my time and energy into their lives, but I don’t necessarily want them showing up on my doorstep. Why is that?
I could claim that it’s for my family’s best interest. Boundaries are appropriate. I don’t invite clinic patients over to my house. If I’m honest though, the real reason I distance myself from some people, is that I’m arrogant, considering them beneath me. In today’s passage, Paul condemns my pride. The very fact that I think that I’m way up here and others are below me reveals my problem – I sometimes consider myself better than others.
It’s a little shameful to read that last sentence. And it should be. Pride is ugly. Pride is self-destructive. Pride turns me towards myself and away from God. If I truly follow him, then I must love those he’s put in my life and I must accept this reality – I’m not better than anyone.