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Pride, Sloth and
Thomas F. Fischer
- Loneliness. Sometimes it just seems like it doesnt go away.
- What may be most befuddling about loneliness is how it can arise so suddenly, out of
nowhere. Lives and ministries which had been apparently rich, fulfilling and rewarding
somehow quickly become overwhelmed by inexplicable feelings of loneliness.
- Certainly the immediate, short-term and long-term affects of loneliness can all take
their toll. The price of loneliness can range from an unsettling sense of detachment from
anything meaningful to a total misdirection of life and energies toward a path of personal
and professional ruin.
- From Where Does This Loneliness Come?
- Gilbert Meilaender in Faith and Faithfulness: Basic Themes in Christian Ethics
(Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 1991) perhaps best pinpoints the origin
of loneliness. In chapter three, "Human Nature: The Sinful Human Being,"
Meilaender relates loneliness to sin, specifically the sins of pride and sloth.
- "Our sin is best characterized as failure to master the intricate simultaneities
required by the duality of our being
In pride we seek only to be free; in sloth we
want only the security of finitude and its limits." (Meilaender, p. 59)
- Prides Pitfall
- It is relatively easy to relate pride and sin. But it may be harder to acknowledge our
own pride as sin. Leaders, Christian or not, are habitually bent toward extending the
boundaries, going beyond the limits and going "where no man has gone before."
After all, its where the fruit is.
- The dark side of such proactive, change-directed leadership is that it may be driven by
a hideous refusal to accept the natural limits of our creaturely condition. The failure to
accept these human limits, Meilaender noted, is a failure of trust.
- "That failure of trust is pride, and within Christian thought it has signified a
failing more fundamental than mere vanity. It is the attempt to exercise freedom without
limitwithout, even the limit that is God. In pride we pretend that the limits of our
nature are of no consequencethat the inner meaning of history is simply the process
of human self-determination." (Meilaender, p. 60)
- St. Augustine characterized Satans sin as pride:
- "He refused to be subject to
his creator, and in his arrogance supposed that he wielded power as his own private
possession and rejoiced in that power." (Meilaender, p. 60).
- Satans greatest mistake, Augustine concluded, was that "he has refused to
accept reality." (Meilaender, p. 60)
- The Reality Of Pride
- This denial of reality can be a major, motivating component of pride. Vision-driven
leaders are de facto driven by a vision which transcends reality. Whether the
vision be of God or of human origin, the nature of vision-driven leadership is to direct
energies toward the creation of that which is "unreality" in the present.
- In order to attain and realize the proposed vision, one must have a will which can
overcome the "real" obstacles. Finances, human resources, stamina, persistence,
willingness to pay the price, and the ability to manage conflict while upholding and
promoting the vision are virtually overwhelming tasks. They require extensive,
extraordinary energies. The two main sources of such energies are God
- The key challenge for leadership is to continue to make energy "reality
checks." Where is the energy coming from? To what degree is ones own pride
taking part in the achievement of the vision? Who is really in control?
- Given the necessary day-to-day hands-on monitoring of the progress of the vision, it is
easy to believe one is in control. The more the vision needs to be kept in control, the
greater the potential for pride to slip in and place us into the same mistake Satan made.
He refused to accept the reality of Who is really in control.
- Enter: Loneliness
- The moment when leaders recognize they are no longer in control is the instant in which
loneliness creeps in and tries to overwhelm the out-of-control leader. Instances in which
leaders may recognize they are out of control may include:
- * Sudden, dramatic change in physical health;
- * Transformational spiritual crises which highlight how vastly different what you
achieved and what you expected really are;
- * The realization/completion of the vision which leaves one exhausted
"Is that all there is?";
- * The irreversible dashing of expectations;
- * Conflict and/or congregational dynamics that, though carefully monitored, have gone
out of control and keep evading control;
- * Loss of key admirers (family, significant others, leaders and members) through death,
rejection, or moving;
- * Loss of constant sources of admiration and adulation;
- * Critical environments which drown any affirmation;
- * Loss of respect.
- The Problem Of Pride
- These and other factors all point to a common symptom of pride: a general inability to
let God be in control. The more prolonged and intense the experiences listed above are,
the greater the loneliness crash will be. Unfortunately, by focusing on the grief of
having lost control, the wrestlings of loneliness may blame God for His inability to
control. It is this blaming which exposes the hideous denial.
- Somehow we have equated our control with Gods control. Somehow we have assumed
that because we are Gods people exercising His control that His control would
conform to our "sanctified" well-intended, God-inspired control. We may have
"fooled" everyone with this holy aura of Gods leading.
- Whatever the appearances, the one who may have been fooled most was the one most deeply
captivated by the vision, the dream, the fantasy, the unreality of their being in control.
The price one pays when one finally comes to reality is a loneliness never before
experienced in one's life.
- The Deep Experience Of Loneliness
- Such loneliness is what always laid in the deepest parts of the leaders
psyche. Their need to be in control may have denied it quite effectively for so many, many
years. When control is no longer possible, the veneer of denial is shattered. Loneliness,
previously so well-controlled for so long, is uncontrollable and unbearable.
- The results of being so utterly out of control is solitude
Unless the unreality of ones control is given up, the loneliness will ensue and
overtake its bearer. The healing can come only when one, as Augustine noted, "accepts
reality." That reality is the recognition of just how extensively their
prideregardless of the "holy" and "honorable" consequences and
resultshad consumed them.
- Sloth, like pride, is symptomatic of alienation from God. Like pride, sloth seeks
freedom from Gods control. Pride seeks freedom from Gods control by wresting
that control for ones self; sloth seeks this same freedom by isolating oneself from
the influence of God.
- Pride and sloth are also related in that when the proud fall they may become slovenly.
Regardless of the nature of the crisis or trauma bringing about the fall, pride can do a
"flip-flop" transformation to appear as sloth.
- On the outside, pride and sloth appear very different. The slothenly may appear
disinterested, apathetic, unkempt, and unmotivated. Their sluggish disinclination to
action and their seeming outright laziness seems to be anything but pride. But it is.
- The slothful use their idle disinterest and detachment as controlling behaviors to avoid
Gods calling. Such behaviors are rooted in a pride which, instead of over-running
and out-powering Gods control, simply chooses to avoid it altogether. Their prideful
contempt of Gods will simply exclaims, "It doesnt matter what God thinks.
Ill do whatever I very well please
if I am to do anything!"
- On the inside, however, pride and sloth may appear virtually identical. They are both
driven by the same escape from the reality of Gods control. They share a common
contempt and disregard for God. Both aim to out-maneuver Gods control by the
disregards for His willed boundaries and limits for His servants.
- Dealing with the Consequences of Pride
- The deception is that though we may be quick to point out the evils of slothfulness, the
evils of pride in controlling behavior may not be so obvious
or vice versa.
"The end of both pride and sloth is the solitude that is hell. In
pride we seek to make everything and everyone else subject to our willa world in
which the swollen ego is secure because [it is] alone. In sloth the self is equally alone,
unable to delight in anything outside itself. The solitary self to which pride is
developed in its final stages is at one and the same time the bored self.
But that is the end of the roadwhen pride trusts nothing outside
the self and sloth hopes for nothing beyond the self
Since they are ultimately the
same destinationisolation within oneselfit makes little difference which path
we take" (Meilaender, p. 61).
- The Root Of Loneliness
- Meilaender correctly points out that the root of loneliness is the product of an
unresolved dilemma between creature-obedient and creature-defiant, old man and new man,
sinner and saint.
- "The sinful creature is precisely that: a creature made for God, who cannot
entirely shake off the longing for that appointed designation or close his ears to the
address for God; a sinner who rebels against any goal she has not set for herself
or who draws back from the dangers of a journey beyond the familiar. And because the
sinful creature is both, pride and sloth must be chiefly descriptions of our ultimate
destination apart from grace" (Meilaender, pp. 63-64).
- Toward Healing
- Given this struggle, the identification with Paul in Romans 7 is striking: "What a
wretched man I am! Who can deliver me from the body of death?"
- Such despair is reminiscent of the first two steps of the "Twelve Step"
process. These steps indicate that one must first recognize there is a higher power.
Second, one must submit to Him.
- It is this loneliness-driven despair which is the working of the Law to bring the
Christian "control freak"whether proud or slothfulto Gospel
transformation. When one can finally let go of all the multitudinous areas of
"me," one also begins to receive relief from loneliness. For where God is, where
light enters, the darkness of the deepest night fades into brightness.
- Loneliness is so difficult because its the souls certainbut
disguisedrejection of God. Pride and sloth have kept God out. Where God has been
shut out, loneliness enters. When loneliness overcomes and overwhelms, the hope of the
Gospel is at risk. It can become diminished. It can be doubted. Tragically, it can even
- Coming Nearer To God
- In this context James words, "Come near to God and He will come near to
you," become more than just another spiritual platitude. They become the ultimate
comfort and invitation to release pride, slothor whatever causes ones
lonelinessand let God in.
- The message of the Gospel is specifically this: even in the most unimaginable,
uncontrollable, hellacious scenarios, God is in control. Even on the cross Jesus cried out
of the darkness of His vicarious loneliness for us, "My God, My God, Why have You
- When Jesus died, His greatest action in this loneliness was that He submitted Himself
totally into His Fathers control, yielded to His Fathers calling to Him, and
committed His spirit into the gracious, controlling hands of Him who has dominion over
- Most remarkable, perhaps, was not simply Jesus action and response in this
loneliness. When others saw how, even in loneliness, Jesus didnt try to take
but humbled Himself even unto death, they marveled. With the soldier they
proclaimed, "Truly this was the Son of God."
- Youre Not Alone!
- Jethro, in Exodus 18, recognized how his son-in-law, Moses, was burned out, tired, and
lonely. In his spiritual wisdom, this priest of Midian gave Moses this advice.
- "The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou
wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing
is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now
unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the
people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God." (Exodus 18:17-20
- Did Moses also have to deal with this control issue? It certainly appears as if he did.
As He got nearer to God, he had to leave his controlling pride until the time he willingly
walked up Mount Nebo to surrender himself totally to God in death.
- You, God, And Control
- Are you trying to control God?
- If you are and dont recognize or acknowledge it now, your loneliness will tell you
the truth. It will painfully, by Gods working, show you the excruciating pain those
who demand to be in control reap as they sow pride and sloth.
- Is God in control? Or are your sinful pride, sloth and loneliness.
- Let God be in control. After all, He is anyway, isnt He?
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:49 PM