Pride is the big kahuna of the seven deadly sins. It is said to be the root of all the others. Although pride is sometimes characterized as self-love taken to excess, it is often actually a deficit of self-love or self-esteem that underlies prideful actions. We compensate for inner feelings of inadequacy with outward expressions of bravado.
In either case, the greatest of all sins, pride, is a distortion of the greatest of all spiritual gifts: self-love. Christians look to the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the model of self-reciprocating love that permeates creation. If the religious language of the Trinity doesn’t speak to you, try getting in touch with the love percolating throughout the universe—the love of life that keeps us going and creating. The spiritual disciplines of engagement and abstinence that bring the spiritual gift of self-love into balance are submission and secrecy.
Ooooohhhhh, how I dislike the idea of submission. It’s clear why submission is the least appealing of all the disciplines to the pride. I’m not the submissive type, I guess. I did, however, experiment with this discipline, and to my own great astonishment, I think it brought me greater joy than any other spiritual discipline I have practiced. Truly. Submission is serving by example or submitting humbly to the oversight of others, and it is the highest form of fellowship. It elevates others and in so doing glorifies God.
When I undertook this discipline, I couldn’t see my way clear to submit humbly to oversight from another. I just didn’t seem to have that kind of relationship with anyone, so I went the serve by example route. My daughter Grace was 4 years old, and who wouldn’t enjoy fellowship with a little Grace? It seemed like a low risk approach. I made it my aim to serve her by example in a few small things. It required only a little extra self-awareness and intentional effort on my part, and her response was so innocently magnificent, it was a sheer delight. Now, you might say I did not aim very high (or low, as the case may be) with the submission thing, and I would not argue that point with you one bit. I would argue, however, that it illustrates the principle that any of the spiritual disciplines can be practiced in a manner accessible to a beginner. I may be a submission neophyte, but I tried it and I learned something and I was changed for the better.
Whereas submission is a discipline of engagement, secrecy involves abstinence, and it is as subversive as it sounds. Avoiding recognition for a good deed puts our PR department in God’s hands. We learn to enjoy being unknown and even to accept being misunderstood in peace. Misunderstandings become our cosa nostra with God, our little inside scoop. Above all, secrecy teaches us to serve for love alone.
So here’s the invitation: love God loving you loving him loving you. The apostle Paul proclaims there’s no escape from God’s love:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Join the conversation. How can you participate more fully in the self-reciprocating love being offered to you?
Copyright 2013 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.