I compare myself with others an awful lot. I measure myself against his success, her popularity, their intelligence. Sometimes I rank highly, sometimes not so much.
As a result I am insecure. I am better than you one minute, and desperately need reassurance the next.
Tall Poppies get cut down
The Kiwi answer to the problem of pride is to cut the proud down to size. We despise someone who claims they're better than the rest. Perhaps we value equality. Perhaps we feel like we don't stack up, and your hard work and talent make my efforts look embarrassing.
Humility is a virtue enshrined in the Kiwi psyche. Our humour is self (and other) effacing. We struggle to give credit where credit is due. We do anything to avoid inflating our neighbour's ego.
Perhaps our virtue is a vice. Due to this love affair with humility, we have a gaping hole in our self esteem. We try to build ourselves up with kind words and lofty ideals: Believe in yourself.
Children are taught to follow their dreams, that they can do anything, and that everyone's a winner. But what happens when our dreams don't turn out? What happens when we fail, when we enter the real world and no one bothers with participation certificates?
Exiting the merry-go-round
One-time Parachute musician Marcel Currin wrote a song about the pendulum of pride: 'I used to be proud, but then I got humble. Then I got proud because I was so humble'. We think humility is focusing on our lowliness, with all the self-flagellating and perverse self-exaltation at our virtue that inevitably follows.
We think the problem is regarding ourselves too highly when we should be regarding ourselves more lowly. Perhaps the problem is we regard ourselves too much.
If I am to be humble, I need to take up the art of self-forgetfulness. I predict that I'm going to spend less time comparing myself to others if I stop thinking about myself so much.
What do you need? How can I act in your best interest? How can I celebrate or mourn with you?
I am under no illusion that this is going to be an easy change to make. Old habits die hard, and this is a habit that goes past the day I was bornâright back to the Garden of Eden.
How can I get what I want? What will make me happy? How can I increase my power?
Nonetheless, we are called to serve and love others. God commands and He enables. As foreign as it is to me to put the interests of others before my own, I know that this is what Christ has done for me.
Striking a balance
Christianity is a worldview full of extremes. Instead of swinging from self-adulation to self-loathing we must learn to hold our extremes in tension. Yes, I have good aspects and, yes, I have bad aspects. I am a saint stained by sin.
It is true that we don't reach God's standard. It is easy to feel like we should do, should be, better. As we get more aware of our sin, it seems bigger and bigger. We break our promises, we violate God's creation and we hurt others.
Yet there is infinite value and dignity in us too. God has created humanity in his image, to be like Him, to relate to Him, and to represent Him in creation. When humanity first entered the scene, creation went from good to very good.
Despite our fallen nature, God still sees worth in us. Jesus died in our place, taking on our sin while we were still God's enemies. He performed the greatest act of mercy ever toward us when we hated him most. If Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf doesn't communicate God's love and faithfulness, I don't know what does.
God delights in you. He delights in me, in all of us, even as we continue to stumble. He is faithful and helps us through. God does not regard us as irredeemable filth, but as broken masterpieces yearning to be restored.
Matthew Joils is a student at the University of Canterbury. He is involved in the Christian Union on Campus. He enjoys writing, publishing weekly on his blog: www.matthewjoils.wordpress.com
Matthew Joils' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/matthew-joils.html