On humility C.S.Lewis put it this way, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”1 Perhaps the flip side of that coin would read: “Being prideful comes from thinking too much of ourselves; and thereby thinking of others as less.” Thinking of ourselves over others. In essence: in Selfishness over Selflessness. The danger of pride is that it hinders our charity.
We mere mortals have seeds of both in us.
The Book of Mormon is a great case study on this subject, for example in Helaman 3.
36 And it came to pass that the [...] year ended in peace, save it were the exceedingly great pride which had gotten into the hearts of the people; and it was because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity in the land; and it did grow upon them from day to day.
33 [..] pride [..] began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God--
34 And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
We have a choice to make. We are blessed with great prosperity and blessings in our day. Are we being ‘lifted up in pride’?
Barbara A. Lewis (in the Sep 2016 Ensign ‘What Is Humility, and How Do We Develop It?’) wrote: “In the Lord’s eyes, true greatness does not come through worldly strength, power, or position. It comes through humility.” and submits that: “Pride Is the Opposite of Humility. Unless we are careful to cultivate the characteristics of humility [..] it is easy to be distracted by humility’s opposite: pride. [she also quotes author C. S. Lewis, who] wrote, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”2 President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) taught in a pivotal talk back in 1989, “The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.”3 It is in that when we run into trouble: Delighting in being richer than our neighbours, more athletic than our friends, or better looking than others is being prideful.”
President Benson continues, “The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.”4 They believe they know better than God what is best for them, and they care more about what [the world] think[s] of them than about God’s judgment. The Book of Mormon describes the Nephites’ tragic fall from greatness (see Moroni 8:27), and modern revelation confirms that pride helped bring about their fall (see D&C 38:39). God does not look for the richest, the most beautiful, or the cleverest person. He blesses the humble and meek who are willing to submit to His will.
C.S. Lewis: “We say in English that a man is "proud" of his son, or his father, or his school, or country, and it may be asked whether "pride" in this sense is a sin. I beleive it depends on what, exactly, you mean by "proud of." Very often, in such sentences, the phrase "is proud of" means "has a warm-hearted admiration for." Such an admiration is, of course, very far from being a sin. To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.5 The key difference here I believe is in the “for others’ rather than in one’s own self” part.
Further on this subject, C.S. Lewis wrote: “ it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” What is an anti-God state of mind? An anti-God state of mind is prideful. It is selfish, It is comparative and competitive. He continues: “We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes [us] proud: the pleasure of [thinking we are] above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” In this light, the devil became the devil because he selfishly wanted God’s glory and recognition for himself at the expense of all others. He not only wanted to be better than everyone else. He wanted to be the best, to even have God’s glory. He was willing to do or say anything to convince us and our brothers and sisters from the pre-existence down to today to follow his plan rather than God’s plan for us. Satan’s platform back then promised: “Everybody wins. Nobody loses.” but only delivered himself “Satan as the pretended all powerful God”. He promised salvation for all without effort or consequence, but in reality would never be able to deliver on those promises as His plan was the Great Plan of un-happiness, for as Samuel the Lamanite notes to the wicked Nephite nation in Helaman 13:38, condemning them saying: “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” Attempting to obtain Happiness without Righteousness is impossible. Wickedness never was Happiness. It cannot be. It will not happen. It is contrary to the nature of righteousness.
On the other hand, God’s Great Plan of Happiness for us, the ‘real’ Plan of Salvation, provides a Savior for us, and a way through His Atonement for all on condition of faith, repentance, baptism and continued obedience to God’s laws (His Gospel) to be able to return to be with Him. We are permitted to choose whom we will serve and thereby where we will end up. And by ‘us’ we mean not just us individually but for all of ‘us’. We can never just save ourselves and be ‘happy’ (for being alone will not bring happiness). We are saved in great happily linked family groups. We are saved by serving and assisting our brothers and sisters to learn the gospel and to be saved by serving others.
We must be different than the prideful, wicked Nephite nation. But are we? Samuel the Lamanite’s summary of them at the meridian of time, just 5 years before the sign of Christ’s coming was to be given:
25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. [..]
How different are we from them? Are we ever angry when reprimanded for sin? Do we follow worldly wisdom, Satan’s lies that Sin is not really Sin? Do we question new directives from the Prophet? Do we murmur? For by doing this, their “destruction [was] made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.”
OK, so I have convinced myself that ‘pride’ is probably bad. President Benson thought so. The Book of Mormon says so. So, what was Mormon, the great prophet historian’s solution? He lived through an age of terrible wickedness, war, anarchy, destruction and death. He had centuries of records and prophetic revelations to summarize and review. In a final letter of instruction to his own son, Moroni, what did he write about? He (Mormon) wrote about Faith, of Hope, and of Charity. “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever, and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:47) “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:46) “[..] charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”(Moroni 7:45) “for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.” (Moroni 7:44) If we truly do have charity, the pure love of Christ in our hearts, I submit that we will no longer be prideful.
What can we do?
- We must submit our will to the Lord’s will (see 3 Nephi 11:11; Moroni 10:32). He wants us to become holy, without spot. Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon were prone to a thing described as ‘murmuring’. They followed their father into the wilderness, murmuring. They returned to get the plates, murmuring. They repented and helped Nephi to build a ship, but again murmuring, never fully submiting their will to the Lord’s. We must never find ourselves murmuring.
- We should recognize the Lord’s hand in all things (see D&C 59:21). President Monson stated in a talk from 1992 that feeling and expressing gratitude was a divine gift.6 Do we appreciate all we have been given? This world, our intellect and physical bodies, the free country we live in – this town, this ward, our friends and family, the universe, the sun, moon and stars .. all gifts from God.
- We can pray to our Father to help us grow in humility (see Helaman 3:33–35; Ether 12:27). “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ,”
- We can choose not to be offended (see D&C 42:88). Taking offence is a matter of pride. Choosing not to be offended demonstrates true humility.
- Recognize, confess, and forsake our sins (see Mosiah 26:29–30; D&C 58:43). We tend to try to cover up our sins and mistakes because of selfish pride.
- We should fast and pray for the needs of others (see Isaiah 58:6–7; Alma 6:6). Selflessness is the remedy for prideful selfishness. By turning our thoughts and actions to others and considering and meeting their needs, we experience true joy and happiness.
- We can think of the Savior and renew our covenants during the sacrament (see Mosiah 18:8–10; D&C 20:77, 79) and seek inspiration on what God wants us to do today. Although the first steps we take in joining the church are for ourselves, basically somewhat selfish, we move on from that to focus on others. We can share the gospel. Missionary work is caring for the salvation of others. After we are baptized for ourselves, we can then be baptized for our ancestors and others in the temple. Marriage is a step beyond ourselves to a unified couple and a new family unit. We learn to focus on the needs of others around us. Family History is the work of linking other individuals and families together. This has been described as a three-fold mission of the church, all the same work but with focus on difference groups – ourselves and individuals as converts to the gospel in wards [church], our homes/spouse/children as members of the church [home], and our extended families and ancestors [in the temples] for our own endowment and eternal marriages, and “for the redemption of the dead and the sealing of children to their parents”, enabling us each to move closer to god.
1 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1960), 109
2 C.S. Lewis, ibid
3 Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4.
4 Ezra Taft Benson, ibid
5 C.S. Lewis, ibid
6 Thomas S. Monson Ensign Apr 1992 ‘An Attitude of Gratitude’