American founder Benjamin Franklin declared, “I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people.” While his contributions to the start of the United States is undeniable along with his numerous skills as the premiere “Renaissance man”, I disagree with this quote of his. Other people are not our true enemy. Instead, your worst enemy is much closer. Your ego, pride, is the opponent that has to be slay daily. Franklin’s quip relates to the evil of envy. However, envy is not the greatest of sins, that claim belongs to pride. According to St. John Vianney, “Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud.”
The root of all evil originates from believing yourself to be greater than others and ultimately the Other (God). Whenever, I get envious of others’ success, the underlying issue is that I am too prideful. In the past, I have struggled with seeing my co-workers’ promotions especially when they have less experience. Envy clouds my judgment causing me to drive a wedge between myself and others. Jealousy only exists due to my ego. My worst enemy is myself. Your worst enemy is you! Over the course of my life, I have gained a few strategies to combat myself. We will discuss three of the most effective weapons to erode the ego!
Twentieth century French philosopher Simone Weil wrote, “The only way into truth is through one’s own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation.” My experiences as a parents testify to the veracity of his claim. Prior to becoming a dad, I believed any child acting up or acting out was “naughty”. In many cases, I judged the parents of “misbehaving” kids as “lazy” or “ill-informed”.
Becoming a parent certainly humbled me. Walking back from the communion line carrying a screaming toddler shot down my ego. Whispering to tell my daughter, “You cannot call your brother a butthole! That is not expected.” while entering their SCHOOL is not a better alternative. My wife and I laughed at the “Children are like Drunk People” Memes—until we realized nearly all the memes described our kids!
C.S. Lewis declared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Parenthood necessary entails humility because you are forced to think of your children. Born they are helpless. Babies, toddlers, kids, and teens take time. Time away from being focused on yourself. If you think about yourself too much don’t worry—kids are quick to remind that they need help. Nothing kills the ego like having to put others’ needs above your own!
Along with being humble, another good thing to focus on to defeat pride is taking proper perspective. American businessman and author Al Neuharth plainly declared, “The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective. My wife and I recently purchased Superflex … a Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum to help manage our older children’s reactions to problems. Earlier this week we watched the first episode on YouTube.
Although geared for younger audiences, shifting perspective does not have a specific age range. Everyone can learn to be less rigid in thinking, myself especially! Oftentimes, I make mountains out situations in reality are much smaller in scope. Taking time at the beginning or end of the day to reflect on whether your reaction matched the size of the problem will help keep your ego in check!
Be Patient—Ask for Patience!
Patience is a strong weapon to have in your utility belt in the battle against the self. Matthew Kelly stated in his book Rediscovering Catholicism, “Our lives change when our habits change.” Change sucks! Transforming bad habits into good takes time and is painful. It is easy to get defeated. I personally struggle with anger, impatience, and pride. I get impatient that I do not possess the gift of patience always!
St. Augustine declared, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Wisdom takes times—years and years! It is not an instant process. The paradox regarding patience is we cannot wait to acquire that virtue. Patience cannot be earned on your own merit. It must be asked. Ask daily. Ask hourly if necessary.Robert P. Reed wrote in Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, And Revive Your Catholic Faith, “The Holy Spirit is the origin of all the gifts, talents, and abilities we need to be of service to others” (p.11).
St. Teresa of Avila best describes the power of waiting, “Patience obtains all things!” Over the years, I am slowly realizing the truth to her statement. Through patience I have learned to whittle down my rough edges of the ego—smoothing out my rash outbursts and judgment. I am still far from rounded out as a person, but I am aiming to improve daily.
Pride is the root of all other evils. Selfishness must be combated on a daily basis in order to live a peacefully, joyfully, and authentically. Asking for the virtues of humility and patience together with perspective taking daily will allow you to defeat your worst enemy—yourself!
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices