A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves… There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit (p. 121).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It is scary to think that we could be blind to our own blindness. As awful as it must be to be blind, there is protection in knowing that you are blind. The small child who knows he’s immature doesn’t try to make life changing decisions. The teenager who is too immature to admit his immaturity makes life changing decisions just to prove he can. That’s scary!
What’s more, the teenager can see the immaturity in his peers and totally despises it: “They’re so lame! They’re trying too hard for attention.” So he is not totally blind. He can see his fault in others. Not only can he see it, but when he sees it, he responds to it appropriately—with dislike.
Lewis is saying that we are like the teenager. We are blinded by our primary fault to our primary fault. But we are blind people who can see. This is worse than selective vision (the perceptual equivalent of “selective hearing”). If it were simply volitional, it would be far easier to change.
Our limited accurate sight gives us confidence that only multiplies our core problem – pride. Our limited ability feeds our greatest disability. Our driving question (“How can I help everyone else with their blindness?”) drives us away from the answer we most need to embrace.
This is a difficult reflection to write. I have a strong sense that whatever I write will only distract from what I most need to glean from this quote. I must admit I see the relevance of this quote more in the lives of others, or at best in my own past, more than I see it in my present. But any eloquence in that direction will only clog my own ears to the voice of God.
I truly believe that God wants to and needs to free me from me more than He needs to free me from anything else. But I have wrestled with this quote for thirty minutes and each time I try to focus on my own need for it my thoughts get “distracted.”
I think part of my blindness comes from that fact that I know “why” I do the things I do, even the dumb things. I can look at someone else’s actions and wonder, “Why did they do that?” I can create many possible explanations and critique each one. They get “dumber” with every option I destroy. Yet my own foolishness makes intuitive sense to me even when I’ve proven it won’t work.
I need to have the humility (the cure!) to recognize that until I can question me as well as I can question someone else I am blind. Even better, I need to be willing to admit that until I invite others who see me in a way I can’t tell me what they see, I’m a fool. Actually, I am worse than a fool. I am a fool who thinks I am wise.
I am realizing that in order to not be a fool, I have to fear being blind more than being wrong. Wise people can be wrong; they often are and their response to being wrong feeds their wisdom. However, those who are pride-blind are never wise. Even when they are right, what they do with their rightness corrupts their ability move toward godliness.