Thursday, July 25, 2013

Free Will, Pride, and Humility

Last Friday I wrote a post for Catholic Sistas called "Come Holy Spirit, Give us Humility." It is the eighth post in a monthly series we have been doing since December on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

I have known that I was going to write this post since last November. I have had lots of different thoughts about it since that time. I prayed about it, I looked for anything I could find on humility during those many months, I looked for examples of humility around me (lots of that to go around between both Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis), and I tried to let the Holy Spirit lead me to the right words.

There was one thing on my mind a lot that I thought tied into the virtue of humility quite well. But when all was said and done, it didn't make it into the post at all, which was probably for the best. But it's continued to be on my mind so I'm going with it here in this space.

There are people in our world, some of whom are very well-known public figures, who claim to be Catholic even when they hold viewpoints that are contradictory to the Church. In some cases, these people are just poorly catechized. But in more notable cases, it's obvious that poor catechesis is not to blame.

For those who were educated in the faith at some point with the Church's correct teachings on an issue, I've often seen that a person will still hold onto erroneous beliefs simply because they think they have the "free will" to do so. I'm thinking of one person in particular and her very public stand on her supposed faith and the issue of abortion. However, I believe this applies to a lot of people. She is not an anomaly, just one of many very lost and confused souls.

There are many problems here. First a misunderstanding of Free Will. Second, pride. And third, an unwillingness to humble oneself before the Church.

Free Will
I hate when people throw around the idea of free will as meaning that they can do whatever they want. That's not free will. To properly exercise free will, one has to have a well-formed conscience. Without that, you really are just doing whatever you want.

The God-given gift of Free Will is so that we will love God because we want to. He didn't want a bunch of robots on Earth who would love Him for no other reason than He made them that way. No, He wanted us to freely choose to love Him. The problem is that we can also abuse this gift of Free Will. Adam and Eve did and pretty much every human being since then has at one point or another.

Choosing to use Free Will to take a stand contrary to the Church is nothing more than an attack against the Church. When a person claims to be a faithful Catholic and loves the Church, but then claims to hold beliefs contrary to Catholicism based on nothing more than Free Will, there is no love there. This is a downright rejection of God's Church and God Himself.

I look at this abuse of Free Will and I can't help but think that it is rooted in pride. Pride is not a virtue. It's a vice. It's one thing to be proud of your husband for completing a big project at work or proud of your kid for getting an A in a really difficult class. In those cases and similar ones, we are showing pride in someone else's hard work and dedication. But the kind of pride that we should not be delving into is the kind in which we are looking inward to ourselves only with the belief that we know better than God.

I was one of those who was poorly catechized. Before I was dragged brought more fully into the Church I held contrary beliefs to Holy Mother Church. But I don't think these were rooted in any sort of pride on my part. I was just ill-educated. However, when you know the Truth and specifically go against it, I can't help but wonder what is going on deep down in that person.

They say Free Will gives them the ability to believe what they want. But at the same time they say they are faithful to Catholicism. You can't have it both ways! The only explanation I can come up with is pride. A sense of knowing better than God knows and therefore, thinking that holding contrary beliefs is somehow justified.

The opposite of pride is humility. To be humble, you often have to put your own desires aside in favor of others. A prideful person can't do that. Pride is focus on self while humility is focus on the other. Let's go a step further.

When I was learning my way back to the Church I had to reconsider some of my viewpoints that were contrary to the faith. There were things I believed that I didn't even realized were against Church teaching. Some of those beliefs were pretty easy to reverse myself on once I understood the Church's position more. Others took me more time. Contraception was one that I really had a hard time understanding. I read a lot and still couldn't quite "get it." Eventually, I had to make a choice. Set aside my objections and accept what the Church taught whether I understood or not *or* walk away from the Church entirely.

I chose the route that kept me in the Church. Essentially, I willingly humbled myself to the Church. I decided that the Church was much older and wiser than I was and the best path was to trust in Her. This took a great deal of humility on my part. The best part is that by doing this I also opened myself to fully embrace the Church's teachings. If I had not been willing to humble myself I'd still be struggling with this teaching and may not be Catholic today because of it.

When a person is unwilling to humble themselves before the rich history and long-standing beliefs of a 2000 year old faith because of their own pride, they will never experience the richness and beauty that is the Catholic faith.

Overall, I feel sorry for those who can't see beyond the pride and error that has put them on a path contrary to the teachings of the faith they claim to profess. To get them to the point where they can be humble before the Church will take a lot of work. They have many hurdles to get through before that is even possible.

Let us pray for all those who are misguided in their understanding of the faith and who are too prideful to see the error of their ways. Let's pray that they will one day be brought to a point where they are willing to be humble before Holy Mother Church. St. Augustine, pray for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

[This post is my fourth in a row as part of the "7 post in 7 days" challenge.]

No comments:

Post a Comment