Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Opposite of Pride -- Alma 4: 12

"Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted." (Alma 4: 12)

I posted recently on the question: "what is the opposite of faith?" In that case, doubt, fear, and rebellion are only a few of the possible responses. The opposite of pride is more commonly accepted as humility, and yet what does humility mean?

In this verse, the opposites of pride must be verbs. To oppose pride is to respect instead of despise, to face the needy instead of turning our backs and closing our eyes, to to act against others' hunger and thirst, to minister to the sick, and have empathy with the afflicted.

Why do I choose to say respect instead of love? Because what passes today for Christian love is too often condescending--love without respect is also prideful.

What does it mean to face the needy? Emmanuel used to say that to relate to another face-to-face is to sense the vulnerability of the Other and that, as Rambam used to say, the loss of any one person is the loss of a whole world.

Why hunger and thirst? Perhaps the hunger is physical and the thirst spiritual, a thirsting for knowledge and peace.

Why sick and afflicted? "Sickness" is for those ailments that can be healed in this life, "affliction" is for those conditions God has given individuals to endure for the entirety of their mortal sojourn.

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