Malignant self-love

Published November 1, 2019, 10:31 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Fr. Rolando Dela Rosa

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that pride or malignant self-love causes a form of blind­ness more toxic than physical blindness. I remember a story that illustrates this.

Once upon a time, there was a man who thought he could learn ev­erything there is to know. He went to a famous philosopher who gave him hundreds of books that were sup­posed to help him achieve his goal. Every day, the philosopher would visit the man and ask him the same question: “Have you learned every­thing there is to know yet?” The man would give the same answer: “No, not yet.” Every time he said this, the philosopher would strike him hard on the head with a cane. Although he resented this daily battering, the man was too proud to complain. He wanted to know everything there is to know.

On the 100th day, the philosopher asked again the same question and heard the same answer. So he raised his cane to hit the man but the lat­ter grabbed the cane, stopping the assault in mid-air. The man was expecting to be reprimanded, but to his surprise, the philosopher smiled and said: “Congratulations!”

“For what?” asked the man. The philosopher replied, “You came to me, blinded by your pride, wanting to know everything there is to know. Every day, I strike you on the head so you’ll realize that pride will bring you nothing but pain. For, it is painful to live in an illusion.

Today, you finally learned, not everything you want to know, but the one thing you NEED to know— the ability to remove the cause of your pain.”

Pride numbs a person to the pain that it brings until it’s too late. A common fable says that when a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in lukewarm water which is boiled slowly, the frog will not perceive the gradual increase in temperature until it is cooked to death. That’s how pride works in a person.

One of the greatest tragedies that have befallen contem­porary Christi­anity is the loss of our sense of sin or “moral anesthesia.” Notice the long line of people who want to receive communion, while very few people go to confession. Notice how spoiled-rotten celebrities flaunt their scandalous bickering in public with­out any sense of shame. Notice how well-known criminals guiltlessly de­clare their innocence despite glaring evidence to the contrary.

A few years ago, The Wall Street Journal published a surprising edito­rial that goes: “Nowadays, people no longer talk, think, or worry about sin. But we will say this for sin; at least it offered a frame of reference for per­sonal behavior. When the frame was dismantled, guilt was not the only thing that fell away; we also lost our sense of personal responsibility and our sense of shame.”

The editorial clarifies that rec­ognizing the fact that we are sinners does not mean engaging in an orgy of guilt. Rather, it means looking beyond the Constitutions and other political structures to resolve moral issues. It means making decisions not based solely on legal constraints and limits, or on mathematical calcula­tion of unwanted consequences. It means taking personal responsibility for our behavior and its consequenc­es, and feeling ashamed and contrite when we sin.

Pride is malignant self-love. It blinds us by restricting our vision, turning us inward—ultimately im­prisoning us in falsehood, rational­ization, and delusions. Humility, on the other hand, expands our vision—making us see and accept the truth about ourselves, and making possible a real encounter with others and with God.

 
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Malignant self-love

Published November 1, 2019, 2:31 PM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that pride or malignant self-love causes a form of blind­ness more toxic than physical blindness. I remember a story that illustrates this.

Once upon a time, there was a man who thought he could learn ev­erything there is to know. He went to a famous philosopher who gave him hundreds of books that were sup­posed to help him achieve his goal. Every day, the philosopher would visit the man and ask him the same question: “Have you learned every­thing there is to know yet?” The man would give the same answer: “No, not yet.” Every time he said this, the philosopher would strike him hard on the head with a cane. Although he resented this daily battering, the man was too proud to complain. He wanted to know everything there is to know.

On the 100th day, the philosopher asked again the same question and heard the same answer. So he raised his cane to hit the man but the lat­ter grabbed the cane, stopping the assault in mid-air. The man was expecting to be reprimanded, but to his surprise, the philosopher smiled and said: “Congratulations!”

“For what?” asked the man. The philosopher replied, “You came to me, blinded by your pride, wanting to know everything there is to know. Every day, I strike you on the head so you’ll realize that pride will bring you nothing but pain. For, it is painful to live in an illusion.

Today, you finally learned, not everything you want to know, but the one thing you NEED to know— the ability to remove the cause of your pain.”

Pride numbs a person to the pain that it brings until it’s too late. A common fable says that when a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in lukewarm water which is boiled slowly, the frog will not perceive the gradual increase in temperature until it is cooked to death. That’s how pride works in a person.

One of the greatest tragedies that have befallen contem­porary Christi­anity is the loss of our sense of sin or “moral anesthesia.” Notice the long line of people who want to receive communion, while very few people go to confession. Notice how spoiled-rotten celebrities flaunt their scandalous bickering in public with­out any sense of shame. Notice how well-known criminals guiltlessly de­clare their innocence despite glaring evidence to the contrary.

A few years ago, The Wall Street Journal published a surprising edito­rial that goes: “Nowadays, people no longer talk, think, or worry about sin. But we will say this for sin; at least it offered a frame of reference for per­sonal behavior. When the frame was dismantled, guilt was not the only thing that fell away; we also lost our sense of personal responsibility and our sense of shame.”

The editorial clarifies that rec­ognizing the fact that we are sinners does not mean engaging in an orgy of guilt. Rather, it means looking beyond the Constitutions and other political structures to resolve moral issues. It means making decisions not based solely on legal constraints and limits, or on mathematical calcula­tion of unwanted consequences. It means taking personal responsibility for our behavior and its consequenc­es, and feeling ashamed and contrite when we sin.

Pride is malignant self-love. It blinds us by restricting our vision, turning us inward—ultimately im­prisoning us in falsehood, rational­ization, and delusions. Humility, on the other hand, expands our vision—making us see and accept the truth about ourselves, and making possible a real encounter with others and with God.

 
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