Limitations of Pride and Selfishness
By WILLIAM PRENTISS
Hours on end, thinking yet not seeing, hearing but not feeling, feeling but never expressing, this is my wakened state, unknown to none but me, and God of course, and maybe my sister.
Sis read again from Tolstoy. She assumes I can hear but she doesn’t know for sure. Her extraordinary faith keeps her present, faithful and keenly connected with one who is limited in more ways than the physical.
Tolstoy penned all the devotional pieces in his Calendar of Wisdom for today, October 11. Usually he has several quotes coined by great writers from the world’s sacred texts. Today’s seven sentences suitably yoked the limitations of pride and selfishness.
“Most people are proud, not of those things which arouse respect, but of those which are unnecessary, or even harmful: fame, power, and wealth.” He continued, “There is no worse scoundrel than he who, when he looks around himself at other people, can always find an even worse scoundrel than himself; and therefore, can be quite satisfied with himself.”
I have spent my entire life, even as a professing Christian, proud of temporal things I did nothing to deserve; even in a believed coma, I yet deal with a haughty spirit, thinking myself better than others for what I might have been, no longer am, and for things never warranted based on merit, if they were even better! And, who decides what’s “better?”
I confess—only God hears, He is who matters anyway—I am a scoundrel, and thus have always been. How I have compared myself to others, with their limitations, often different than mine, who were deterministically disadvantaged, and in doing so found myself to be a rather fine fellow. Not true! I was not and am not who some folks thought me to be, but was what others knew me to be, a scoundrel.
I believe it was Lincoln who said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” I’ve always tried to beguile folks into thinking, though I thought it myself, that I wore a white hat, while often self-deprecatingly wearing a black cap and laughing at myself before they got a chance to. I just thought I was a magician. I never knew my sleight of hand was seen in slow motion by the audience.
I think I sleep a lot. I’m not really sure. Most folks assume I am in a catatonic state, but I’m not. I spent years prior to the assault needing more sleep than most folks, as I spent my waking hours obfuscating, misdirecting, eager to jumpstart my lassitude, quell my anxiety, while yearning for the next manic episode capable of veiling my maladjustments, but in reality, spiraling me into a deeper, caliginous funk, setting the stage for more mania. Exhausting.
Sis continued. “A selfish person is always limited. And one is connected with the other: he is selfish because he is limited; he is limited because he is selfish.” My selfishness and limitations adversely nourish one another just as my mania and depression intertwine to keep me off balance and not centered on what matters: God and others.
“A proud person initially causes other people to think that he has more importance than he actually has, but when this influence disappears, as it always does, he becomes only the object of jokes.”
Leo’s operative phrase, “as it always does,” reminds me all things hidden will be exposed in due time.
I want to live in the Light, which alone dispels darkness, where selfishness and pride reside. Lord help me!
MORNINGS WITH TOLSTOY consists of the inner reflections of a man in a coma, the victim of a senseless beating. He can only hear, and no one knows this, but maybe his sister. Sis reads three devotional pieces daily and the internal dialogue reflects his response to them.