A Short Study on Pride, Part 5—False Humility

What is the cure to this cancer feeding on us? Some of us turn to false humility, which manifests in all those who say, “Aw, shucks!” whenever praised. It marks those who seek accolades through humble behavior and those who seek to combat pride through humble behavior. In other words, false humility is present whenever a proud person tries to appear lowly, motives aside.

Acting humble, trying to establish oneself as unselfish or unworthy of praise, is empty and not the way to counteract the destructive effects of pride. As C. S. Lewis said,
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. … The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ.
——C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” The Weight of Glory
 (New York: HarperCollins, 2001, c.1949), 25–26.

It is only with the last line of Lewis’ quote that we begin to discover the antidote. It is the message of Christ and His disciples that humbles. It requires each person to see himself as he is in the sight of God. It requires that we spend our energies thinking outside of ourselves, which is better than attempting to think less of our selves.

Understand this distinction. We must remember our lowly estate before the Lord so we be not deceived (cf. Gal 6:3). Further, it is right to believe that spending less time on the topic of “Me” will loosen the shackles of pride from the mind. However, whether the attempts to “think less” are qualitative or quantitative in scope, only the Gospel brings true freedom to embattled souls.

When we try to live our lives according to our own ability, pride is actually an underlying motivator, no matter how honorable our goals are. In other words, false humility is a form of pride.

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