A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride (p. 122).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I think it would be wrong to take from Lewis’ question that one should like being snubbed, ignored, or patronized. There is a healthy level of wanting to steward the voice, talents, and life God has given you that should make these experiences unpleasant to everyone.
Lewis’ question is based upon “how much” we dislike these experiences. Do we walk away disappointed that we did not get to serve in the ways God gifted us or do we replay the offense in our mind for the better part of a week? Do we mourn the immaturity of a companion who would patronize another, or do we internally rage that our “honor” was besmirched?
As I try to think through Lewis’ question, I believe it implies a preliminary question, “Do I have enough of a sense of God’s calling and gifting in my life that I crave to make an impact for God’s kingdom on the world around me?” If so, then I will be bothered when the sin or immaturity of others detracts from those opportunities.
However, if that sense of being bothered is “too much,” then it is a strong indication that the kingdom for which I am trying to make an impact is my own instead of God’s (i.e., pride).When I am advancing God’s kingdom, I realize that others being inconsiderate does little to stop the tides of redemptive history. Their actions are like a heckler at a NASCAR race telling the drivers they’re slow; annoying, but inconsequential in the outcome of the race.
So what should an appropriate level of “dislike” be? I think it should be in the range of disappointment—an emotion from which we learn, make minor modifications as possible, and move on. If I miss an opportunity to express God’s gifts because of the rudeness or ignorance of another, I think it is right (morally before God, not just “personal rights”) to be disappointed.
How should I respond to such a disappointment? Learn what I can about how to live more effectively in a broken world with my fellow fallen people. Exert whatever influence can still be beneficial in the original situation. Then move on expecting that God is still active and His purposes will not be thwarted by any human shenanigans.
But how do I recapture the opportunity that was lost? Answer: By responding in a way that makes God’s character known in light of the offense. Humility allows me to see that the opportunity to advance God’s kingdom was not taken away, but transformed. Pride is so committed to magnifying God in its strengths that it missed the opportunity to magnify God in its weakness.
So as I think through Lewis’ question and try to determine, “How bothered is so bothered that it is personal pride rather than godly mission?” The best answer I can create is that offense becomes pride when it distracts me from the next opportunity to serve God, especially with the one who offended me. It is pride that blinds me and humility that gives me eyes to see.