Monday, 12 December 2011


Boy this humility stuff is hard! I keep getting into semi-circular arguments with myself. Like:
  1. I want to be humble.
  2. I try to be humble.
  3. I find that trying to be humble makes me proud of myself.
  4. I ask God to help me be humble, because of (3).
  5. I discover that I'm proud of asking God to help me to be humble.
  6. At least I admit I can't fix it, oh no, I'm even proud of that!
and so it goes on and on. I can substitute almost any virtue for humility in similar sequences - obedience, repentance, even loving God. It makes me want to roll on the floor, crying my head off.

In a similar vein, I have been worrying about the English translation of the Jesus prayer, which usually goes like this:
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Greek has the sinner, and the Russian, of course, just has sinner (Slavonic languages don't have definite and indefinite articles).

So should I substitute the sinner for a sinner? I tried it for a while, but in fact it seems to me to be an example of false pride, pride even in being uniquely sinful! This nuance of the English definite article probably doesn't exist in Greek. And in any case there is nothing unique about my sinfulness, I'm just the common variety of sinner.

Another concern: visible symbols. I wear a Celtic Cross round my neck at almost all times. Usually, when it's not physically dangerous, I have this outside my shirt. I do this deliberately to proclaim my Christian faith. But is this too a symbol of pride? Would I do it in a country where it would get me shot? On the whole I tend to the view that it is better for others to know who they are talking to, rather than for them to be embarrassed later.  It has helped with introductions in the past.

It's one thing to bear witness to Jesus and pride in His Salvation, but quite another to attempt to draw attention to myself as:
  • better (or worse) than others
  • some kind of teacher
  • a role model
  • in some way official
It's the same thing with the Orthodox Crucifix that I have on the dash of my car.

All this, of course, comes from the western thought patterns drilled into me by 62 years of living here. The dichotomy between thought and being. I am not the person I think I am. I am not the kind of person I want to be. This is a strange paradox, because although I can identify the behaviours that I want to to exhibit, I can't appear to be able to change my instinctive or habitual reactions to events so as to exhibit them.

It seems to me that this is what the psalmist means when he says (psalm 50):
my sin is ever before me

Your prayers, brothers and sisters, would be most welcome.