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Proving Dominance

I will admit that I can sometimes be stubborn. It may have happened once or twice that I butted heads with someone that I disagreed with. Okay, maybe more than once or twice. Maybe enough times that I am thankful that most humans don’t literally butt heads when they disagree about something. Most…

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Most of us choose to leave that to the animals. We often hear of the males of species competing for the attention of the females through these physical displays like head butting, but I had forgotten that sometimes males will do this to establish a hierarchy in the herd. In fact, they’ll try to gain dominance in order to gain preferential access to any number of desired resources (food, the opposite sex, preferred resting spots, etc).

Rams, mountain goats and antler-locking deer come to mind when talking about headbutting, but many more join in this type of action. Hippopotamus are known to butt heads, but since they don’t have big horns/antlers to protect their head, they’ve adapted a strategy of butting heads at an angle to protect their frontal lobes. Other animals have not evolved any special traits or tactics but still butt heads anyway. Some of those animals are pigs, cats, and some breeds of dogs.

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Although I said most people don’t butt heads literally, we CONSTANTLY see people trying to prove their dominance. This is not something that we leave to the animals. As I say that, I’m sure you immediately pictured someone in your mind, someone who is loud and full of themselves and always trying to prove to everyone they’re the best. Well C.S. Lewis, in his radio broadcast on “The Great Sin”, thinks that maybe you should look a little closer to home.

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone 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.” – C.S. Lewis

This sin of which we are all guilty is PRIDE, and it can sometimes be difficult to see in ourselves. Although I’m aware that I’m a prideful person (as all are to some degree), as I was preparing to write this, I couldn’t think of any concrete examples. To help me write a more relatable blog, I asked God, “Okay God, show me the ways that I am prideful.” And BOY DID HE! *Here’s your sign*

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On Sunday we went to a different church than normal. The entrance hymn started and immediately I was in a state of pride because the cantors were singing the wrong notes, were flat when they sang the right ones, and on the wrong beat. My brain immediately started thinking, “Wow. They’re awful. I could do better than that. Who let them sing?” Luckily, since I had asked God to show me my pride, it didn’t take long for me to realize DING DING DING! HERE IT IS! These people are doing their best, trying to give back to the church. They probably spent a good amount of extra time practicing, whereas I couldn’t even get my family to Mass on time that day. I’m not volunteering to get up in front of people and be a cantor. Why am I being so critical and thinking myself so much better than them? I felt awful. I was in church and being so sinful.

Multiple other times during Mass things happened that blatantly showed me my pride, and by the end of the service I felt about 2 inches tall. I had definitely been humbled and shown the many ways I need to improve. The world tells us that we need to be the best. Sometimes it even tells us that we need to put others down in order to prove that we are better than them. This is not the Christian way. C.S. Lewis continues later on in his talk, discussing how pride requires competition.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. 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 everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”

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The world is wrong. This view of needing to be better than those around us is pride, plain and simple. Today’s gospel (Lk 11:29-32) has Jesus preaching repentance, telling the people how they must turn from their evil ways. He tells them to be like the Ninevites, whose story happens to be the first reading for today (Jonah 3:1-10). When Jonah comes to the Ninevites and tells them to change their ways or else, they immediately do. They immediately proclaim a fast and humble themselves by putting on sackcloth. Even the king joined in. This has to be our response. The Lord is calling us to repent from our prideful ways.

I feel like I ask you to change and repent a lot, but sometimes we fail to change because we fail to see the problem. This week I’d invite you to ask God to SHOW YOU your pride. If we let Him, He will show us. He definitely did for me. This is the first step. Once we see our pride, we must be like the Ninevites and actively humble ourselves. Do not give in to the worldview of needing to be better than those around you; live the Christian life of humility.

If you’d like to hear the rest of C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on Pride, you can find it in Book 3, Chapter 8 of Mere Christianity, or you can watch a YouTube reading of it here: I highly recommend it.