The Pride Vaccine
For we all stumble in many ways. James 3:2
I sat down with my wife one evening recently while she was watching one of those home renovation shows. I noticed that one of the hosts of the show had on pants that I thought looked stupid and so, I said as much. A moment later another individual appeared on screen who looked like he had a hangover. I surmised that he had a problem with alcohol and again, I felt free to point out how terrible he looked. I wasn’t concerned for either of those two. I was just being hypercritical and condescending. Apparently quite smug about my own sobriety and pant choices in the moment, I looked down on those two with an arrogance which revealed that I must have forgotten about my own life struggles.
Today’s passage is the treatment for my condescending pride. In it, James pointed out the reality that we all have something. We all struggle in some way. None of us are perfect. We all have self-destructive behaviors that we don’t want to do, but we do anyway. We all have good things we want to do that we don’t. We all fail in many ways. If we think we don’t, then we’re likely guilty of the most insidious of sins – pride.
It’s my nature though, to look down on those who don’t struggle as I do. I don’t understand those with a gambling addiction. The way they burn through money that they don’t have is absolutely insane to me. How stupid can you be? The interesting thing is that they look at my opioid addiction the same way. If I take a minute to stop and think about it, I can understand their struggle through my own. I’ve been there. I may not gamble, but I’ve made self-destructive choices in my addiction too.
Living in recovery might make this temptation to look down on others even greater. I’ve recovered. Why can’t you? What’s wrong with you? When I find myself thinking this way, I must remind myself of James’ words. We all stumble in many ways. I’ve been there. I’ve made terrible choices. And in other ways, I’m still there. I’m not perfect. I still struggle with gluttony, anger, resentments – and my stupid pride.
To follow Christ means daily embracing humility and daily reminding ourselves that we all struggle. This is the daily inoculation for our pride. This doesn’t mean that we cannot call destructive behavior destructive. It also doesn’t mean that we cannot try to help someone else climb out of their self-destruction. It just means we shouldn’t be arrogant and condescending about it. We all struggle and we’re all in this together.