Objective Truth Series – reflections article # 8
We have considered in the last few reflections just how subtle pride is. Indeed, our fallen human nature is so prone to this vice. St. John says in his first epistle, “For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.”[1John 2:16]
Thus, knowing this about our fallen human nature, we see one of our weak spots in the fortress of our soul. St. Ignatius of Loyola describes how the devil studies our souls in order to find our weakness and then tempts us in our vulnerable spot. It follows that if we know ourselves, then we can better be on guard against his onslaughts.
We well know that pride is a horrible enemy of our souls and that we must be on guard against, and fight this horrible sin. We can do this by watching all of our thoughts as they come.
Yet what should we do about our thoughts?
First we have to judge each in-coming thought and weigh if it will foster pride. If we determine that the thought would lead us to the trap of pride, then what must we do with it?
In another of his rules for the Discernment of Spirits, St. Ignatius explains how we must do the opposite from what the devil suggests as a means to combat him. St. Ignatius calls this Rule the agere contra or “to go against”. By the agere contra we counteract the devil and foil his plans.
Consequently, for every prideful thought that comes, we must immediately knock it down with an agere contra humility thought. Thus, we could call this our anti-pride filter or shield.
Some possible agere contras are:
When someone compliments us, we should say, “Thank-you” and immediately give some praise to God Who deserves the glory of the compliment.
If it doesn’t work out for us to outwardly deflect the praise from ourselves and direct the praise towards God instead, then we should at least direct the praise to God internally.
Sometimes it can occur that internal compliments come to our mind, for example, thoughts, such as, “that wasn’t so hard.” or “I can’t believe that this [whatever venture] came out so well.” “Won’t the others be pleased when they see this?” “That came out great!” etc. Then with these thoughts, we should counteract them saying within ourselves, “If it wasn’t for God that [whatever it was that pleased us] wouldn’t have happened.” Or “God inspired that, I didn’t, and I couldn’t have done that without His Aid. And/or “I can’t take any credit for that.”
Or again, sometimes a beautiful thought or truth comes into one’s mind, and then one should immediately remember that the thought came from God and was simply God’s inspiration.
Other helpful shields are:
One important filter/shield against pride is to not have a progress bar or a regression bar.
One should not measure himself or judge whether he is growing in virtue, because only God knows our hearts. Likewise, one should not allow himself to be discouraged because he seems not to be advancing in holiness. Judging our own case is a dangerous trick of the devil, as St. Paul warns us, “But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day. But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall every man have praise from God.” 1st Corinthians [4:3-5]
Watch critical thoughts [we need to go against them too]
If one finds himself getting critical and finding fault with his neighbor, he should recall to his mind the fact that he probably has that same fault in a most glaring and annoying way.
Likewise, he should keep in mind that others have been so patient with him and have put up with him and his faults. It is important to remember that the Good Lord has been so patient and commands that one be patient and forgive his neighbor.
Memorize handy quotes to keep in mind as agere contra thoughts.
It is very helpful to have quotes from the Scriptures or from the saints readily available in one’s mind to recall, when tempted, especially when tempted to pride. One then might repeat and/ or ponder on the quote for some time. This has a very sobering effect on the soul and also is a consolation in times of temptation.
Immediately following this article is a list of quotes which may be helpful in starting such a mental list. Dear readers, if you have any additional ones to share, please send them along. God is so wonderful to allow the members of His Mystical Body to fight in the trenches together in this valley of tears.
With all of these concepts in mind one can truly appreciate the Mercy of God and perhaps the following would come to mind:
On my heart, a guard must I keep,
‘Cause proud thoughts, therein do creep,
As subtle as, the serpent of old,
Who tempted Eve, to think so bold.
As to think she’d, like God could be,
By eating of, the forbidden tree,
Even now there, are countless ways,
In these troubled times, faithless days.
Satan sees how, we all do lack.
He sneaks upon us, to attack,
And Satan likes; to puff our pride,
This keeps us firmly, on his side.
But how can one, keep him at bay?
Counter-‘tack him, without delay!
If he tempts left, get to the right,
If he tempts to be sad, stay bright!
If he fawns saying, “You are great!”
Then only the Lord, appreciate.
If he says, “You’re doomed to hell!”
Then think, “Only God knows me well.”
With dozens of quotes, in one’s mind,
Agere contras, one can find.
Thus God does guide, the soldier-soul
And keeps one looking, on his goal
With tender care, God did us teach
How to keep out, of Satan’s reach
Mary helps us, with strategies,
Showing us how, her Son to please.
We ask Our dear, heavenly Queen,
To help us keep, our souls most clean,
And use the tools, she did provide,
To keep us close, to her Son’s side.
Quotes to commit to memory in order to fight proud thoughts:
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” [Our Lord says to the father whose son was possessed by the devil] The father replies, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” St. Mark 9:22-23
“For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth. But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me.” 2 Corinthians 12:6
St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Humility consists, above all, in the submission of man to God.” Summa, Ia IIae, Q.161, a.3, objection 1 and its reply.
Our Lord says, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”
“What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”1 Corinthians, 4:7
“Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Galatians, 6:2-3.
“The Lord is merciful and compassionate: long-suffering and plenteous in mercy.” Ps. 102:8.
“Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” St. Matthew 18:3
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Ps.126:1