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Questions and Answers: What Does It Mean To Have Faith?

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Polly: Good afternoon, Connor. How are you doing today?

Connor: Hello, Polly. I’m fine.

Pol: What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be running the game booth at the fun fair with Samuel today.

Con: Er, yes, but Samuel changed his mind and said he didn’t want me to come along. He says I always try to run things and am too hard to get along with. Do you think that’s true, Polly?

Pol: Well, all I know is that it is a strong temptation to all of us to want to run things — have things done “our own way.” I’m sure you have done it sometimes; I know I have. Perhaps it was just one particular bad time when you acted that way which annoyed Samuel.

Con: No… he sounded as though he felt it was my natural disposition, and that he’d given me too many chances already. I felt quite bad – I suppose I am too fond of having my own way, but if it’s something everybody does, why should he think it’s so bad?

Pol: Well, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, pride is the “one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves…. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others… The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every other person’s pride.”1 So, you may have been behaving proudly without even realizing it. And even if you think Samuel himself is proud and tries to run things without you sometimes, which annoys you, that doesn’t mean he won’t react the same way when you do!

Con: That makes for a pretty serious-sounding situation.

Pol: It is. Lewis explained that “(p)ride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride… Pride is competitive by its very nature: that is why it goes on and on. If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”2

Con: Well, I don’t think I’m quite that bad, not yet anyway, Polly! But I admit – I don’t really know how to be humble. I hardly even understand what it means. It – it almost seems a bit cowardly to me sometimes, rather wimpy.

Pol: You don’t think Moses was wimpy, do you? Or Jesus? And they are the only two biblical figures described as “meek,” which means the same as humble.

Con: Yes, and I never quite got that. I mean, Jesus is God. He is completely in control and never hesitated to tell the Pharisees and other leaders exactly what He thought, or to correct His disciples. In fact, the Bible states very clearly that “the people were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as One having authority” (Matthew 7:23-29). That doesn’t sound like the general idea of what humility is like.

Pol: No, it doesn’t. But that simply means that our general idea of what humility is supposed to mean may not match what the Bible says humility does mean. C.S. Lewis observed: “Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.”3
You see, humility doesn’t mean lack of confidence in who we are and in our Heavenly calling. Jesus knew Who He was, and
what He had been sent to earth to do, and so He was perfectly able to say so in perfect humility. Only people who are unsure of themselves have to be arrogant in order to convince others that they are really great.

Con: Yes, I suppose that makes sense. But while that helps with the purely negative activity of avoiding pride, it doesn’t help with providing the positive replacement of humility. I’m still not sure what the biblical definition of that is.

Pol: Well, as with every other virtue, following Jesus’ example is our best guide to humility. However, there are certain biblical passages with specific instructions regarding humility: “all of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5) and “live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; never be conceited” (Romans 12:16). These verses and others demonstrate that the primary focus of humility is not on oneself, creating humble “feelings,” but on others, behaving humbly toward them by putting them first. Lewis stated: “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays… who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him… He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”4

Con: Well, that sounds like a helpful approach. If you don’t think about yourself, you really can’t help being humble.

Pol: Yes, but one must also take steps to undo the natural habits of pride, even if one isn’t thinking about oneself at the time. Sometimes we do things in a self-centered way without even realizing that we are putting ourselves before others, because we haven’t even thought about it. So we have to pay attention to that, too. C.S. Lewis stated: “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”5

Con: So, do you think that if I admit that I have been conceited to Samuel, he might want to spend time with me again?

Pol: Well, as long as you apologize humbly enough!

Ask your children: What do you think about Polly’s answers to Connor’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give, if someone asked them a question like Connor’s.

1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 50th Anniversary ed. (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002), pp. 121-122.
2 Ibid. p. 122.
3 Ibid. p. 52.
4 Ibid. p. 128.
5 Ibid.

C.S. Lewis Institute

C.S. Lewis Institute, In the legacy of C. S. Lewis, we develop wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ who will articulate, defend, share, and live their faith in personal and public life.


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