I was reading yesterday’s meditation from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez. Most days when reading the daily meditation, I feel like Father Fernandez is a fly on the wall and writing to counter what he observes in my home. Yesterday was one of those days that really hit home. I had already written some thoughts on Self-Love here, here, and here, and shared this passage. But this does need to be reinforced for me. Often. Daily.
The greatest obstacles to the soul’s trying to follow Christ and to help others have their origin in a disordered love of self. At times this leads us to overestimate our strength. At other times it brings discouragement and despondency as a result of our own weaknesses and our errors. Pride often reveals itself in an interior monologue, in which we exaggerate the importance of our own interests and get them out of proportion. We end up praising ourselves. In any conversation pride leads us to talk about ourselves and our affairs, and to want people to have a good opinion of us at any price. Some people stick to their own opinion, whether it be right or wrong. They seize any chance to point out another’s mistakes, and make it hard to maintain a friendly atmosphere. The most reprehensible way of emphasizing our own worth is by doing down someone else. The proud do no like to hear praise for another person and are always ready to reveal the defects of anyone who stands out from the crowd. A characteristic note of pride is an impatient dislike of being contradicted or corrected.
The man who is filled with pride doesn’t seem to have much need of God in his work and undertakings, or even in his ascetical struggle to be better. He exaggerates his personal qualities, closes his eyes to his defects, and ends up thinking that what is a lack of good spirit is really an admirable quality. He is convinced, for example, that he has a generous and bold spirit because he neglects as insignificant the small duties of each day. He forgets that to be faithful in the big things, we have to be faithful in the small ones. So he believes himself to be better than others, and dismisses the good qualities of people who are more virtuous than himself.
Saint Bernard sets out the various progressive indications in the growth of pride: first, curiosity — wanting to know everything about everybody; then superficiality because of a lack of depth in prayer and in deeds; again, a shrill, misplaced cheerfulness which thrives on the defects of others and lapses into ridicule; there follows boasting, the desire to be in the foreground, to be conspicuous, to stand out; arrogance; presumption; refusing to admit our own faults, even when they are obvious; and, a short step thereafter, a covering up of our faults in Confession.
The proud man has little interest in knowing the truth about himself. In our prayer today let us ask ourselves if we value humility sufficiently, and ask God for it over and over again. We can examine ourselves as to whether we constantly ask God Our Father to help us, in big things as in little. O God, we say with the Psalmist, thou art my God, I seek thee; my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is. We could usefully repeat this prayer throughout the day. (p. 296, In Conversation with God, Volume 3, by Francis Fernandez.)