I would venture to guess that if you didn’t wince when you read those words, you aren’t very honest with yourself. If you have not felt the hot, shame-ish flush of realizing you puffed yourself up only to discover you were wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, you are not fully alive.
Pride is the cardinal sin. (I’m just saying that. I don’t really know, but it fits my thesis.) I do know that pride covereth a multitude sins and that it goeth before a fall.
Should I recount the embarrassing fall I experienced the other day? Oh, why not. It will make me even more humble, which, apparently, is something I need. *wince* *wince*
I wrote an absolutely killer article (see how pride gets started?) that my publicist called “brilliant.” I just knew it was my career-making piece. In fact, I almost said as much to a friend, but thank heaven for small favors, I didn’t. This is how prideful, prideful, prideful I was. *wince* *wince*
I sent it to my editor at the Federalist with the following email:
In my never to be humble opinion, this might be the best, most important, most career-making piece I’ve ever written. The Federalist is always my first choice, but will you please let me know ASAP whether you want it? I might be nervy enough to submit it to NRO.
*wince* *wince* *wince* *wince* *wince* I can barely look at the words.
Still riding high, I opened her email back to me the next morning, and read:
What is the news jump here — is this Stanford thing new?
Crash! went my ego. Not because the article wasn’t good, but because a) they’ve told me a few times that my “variety basket approach” is too broad for them, and I had not heeded their feedback in this grand opus and b) I had bragged—BRAGGED—about what a fantastico piece it was.
In order to cope with the embarrassment, I vowed to myself that I would never be prideful again. Ha! That’s like vowing that I will never eat Krispy Kremes again when my jeans are too tight. We all know how that goes. (See Structural Obstacle note below.)
I gave myself a good talking to, reworked the piece to be more appropriate (and timely) for the Federalist, and sent it back with the following email:
Pride goeth before a fall. Ach du lieber, will I never learn?
I humbly submit this piece in the hopes that you will accept it. Turned out to be a completely different article once I tied it to a news jump.
What do we learn from this, boys and girls? When you’ve been prideful, everybody knows it so you might as well admit it. My testimony is that if you admit it in a self-deprecating way, you’re 3/4 of the way out of the shame-ishness.
“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis captures pridefulness perfectly. If you haven’t read it, the plot is Screwtape (the devil) sending letters to Wormwood (his nephew) on how to make a Christian fall away from his faith. The most profound teaching ever on pride, for Wormwood and the rest of us, is when Screwtape says, “Your subject is becoming humble. Have you drawn his attention to the fact?”
Booyah! If you think you’re humble, it’s proof that you’re not. Don’t substitute my judgement for your own, but my new strategy is to think I’m prideful so that I restrain it. And life goes on. There are worse things.
Full confession: I still have some pridefulness. Voilà the opus.
Structural Obstacle: So God showed me what the target wasn’t (see Faith post from 3/5/17). God showed me the target wasn’t a career-making article in the Federalist and an appearance on Tucker Carlson. The target was that I get my pride in check before I take my career any further so that my embarrassment is easier to cope with. Now, I would have loved to have my article in the Federalist be shared 500,000 times on Facebook, but learning this lesson now rather than later makes me want to pee on myself with relief. See? He always has a better target when it’s not the one we want. Additionally, I now have a rough draft of the introduction to my next book: “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Civ, Please Don’t Go.”