Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pride and prejudice

I like to think of my family as really, very nice. We are certainly not perfect but I like to think we are likeable people. Sometimes others make this difficult to believe...
A few years ago there was a family with whom we were acquainted. They were certainly not good friends just people we occasionally saw and were friendly with. For some reason, unknown to us and without warning, they stopped waving hello and smiling a greeting and instead started casting angry glances our way. Just the other day their son ran into our son and told him the cause of the tension. It seems his father had done a favor for us over four years ago by fixing something we never realized had broken, when we were not aware that he was fixing it. We never thanked him and they were very offended by that. We never knew the good deed had been done and obviously failed to appreciate the kindness. So for four and a half years they have been carrying a grudge around and harboring anger towards us while we went along baffled but basically unaffected. It seems a shame for so many reasons. Mostly because it takes a lot of energy to be angry for so long. But also it seems a rather small reason to carry around such resentment. Admittedly, I myself have carried grudges for even longer over even smaller things. How silly of us to be so petty. How silly of us to be so prideful.
For me, it is often very difficult to be humble but I think it becomes much harder to be prideful. In pride, we put ourselves through so much pain and suffering trying to believe we are entitled to more than we have gotten in life- be it respect, thanks, appreciation, credit, or even a big fancy house and a sports car. The truth is we are not entitled to anything. God does not owe us anything. Our friends and acquaintances are not obligated to provide us with affection. Even our families are under no requirement to fill our lives with warmth and good feelings. Though it is surely God's wish that all people know the love of their friends, families, and neighbors no one is entitled to that love and respect. I'm not sure we even deserve these things, after all, we are all sinners, we all fail at times in our lives.
In light of these revelations, I wonder why we all struggle so much with our feelings of entitlement and our tendency to always desire more than we have. Our culture does not encourage humility and selflessness so perhaps that is the cause of our self absorption. More likely, it is just our fallen human nature. Either way, I rest assured because God always know what He is doing and always seeks to guide us closer to Him. He understands our feelings and tendencies yet tells us to be humble and meek. Though He knows it is not easy He desires always to help us.
In His great wisdom, I think God gave us the gift of free will to counteract our sense of entitlement and to show us real love. When we truly value our free will, and that of others, it becomes the perfect antidote to entitlement issues. Free will is what allows us to really love others and to really be loved by others, without obligation. Without free will we would not know what it is like to be truly loved and valued. Though it allows others to choose to dislike us as well, without it love does not have meaning.
Our greatest gifts are those things which are intangible, things such as affection, respect, compassion, forgiveness, love. They are great simply because they are offered as gifts. We appreciate these things because they are given in love, by choice, not out of a sense of duty or obligation.
Of course, it is hard to feel hurt and mistreated, but though it is painful we are not here to judge or to condemn, but to love and forgive, freely of our own will. I pray that God will give me the strength to let go of my grudges, and that in doing so, just maybe, I will inspire others to "let go, and let God" as well.

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