Monday, September 19, 2011

Pride vs. Charity

I was once in a meeting where a man bore a sweet testimony of what he had learned the Sunday before from a 16 year old girl. Her message, simple yet profound, touched him and as he related it to us we were also touched. He ended by explaining that when the Spirit is with you, a person can learn from even a small child. The next week I happened to be in another meeting with this same man and was surprised to hear him critically report on a talk he had heard by a well-known BYU religion professor. He ended this report by saying, “I didn’t learn one thing from him.” What became obvious as he spoke about the man was that he had a personal bias against people who write books on gospel topics.

Listening to him made me wonder what prejudices I have that separate me from the Spirit and keep me from growing. Paul taught the Corinthians that all members of God’s Church are one body and that to each of the individuals within the body God has given specific gifts which are to be shared. Paul said that the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” Each part of the body has a different function but all are vital. Paul then went on to explain that “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28).

What Paul is explaining is that some, like the professor, have been given the gift not only of knowledge but of time to study and in turn to share what is learned. Others may not have four or five hours a day to study the scriptures, but they have the gift to listen and learn from the one who does have time. The person who listens also has other gifts, such as the gift of compassion and the ability to size up a situation and know exactly what to do to assist someone in need. The person in need may have musical talent that inspires the professor in his studies. In other words, we all need each other. We all bless each other. And if we discount any person’s gift we hurt ourselves.

As I pondered on how I let feelings toward others get in the way of my learning from them, I realized that any prejudice or bias is a form of pride. As President Ezra Taft Benson once explained, “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” (“Beware of Pride”, Ensign, May 1989, p.4).

It is easy to see how looking down on others is a form of pride. If someone had discounted the message of the 16 year old girl from the onset of her talk simply because she was only 16 and couldn’t possibly know anything, that is easily recognized as pride. But there is another side to the coin of pride. As President Benson explained, “Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous” (“Beware of Pride”, Ensign, May 1989, p.4. Emphasis added).

As I pondered this more, I realized that Paul gives the solution to all of my prejudice and bias problems. After explaining the importance of spiritual gifts he says, “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). And what is that way? The path of charity. Charity is the antidote to pride. If instead of criticizing, we love, that love allows us to learn and grow from whatever situation we are in or whomever we are learning from. Indeed, charity never fails.

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