The Illusion of Superiority

We are in a series on the Beatitudes of Jesus at church right now… it’s called “Dance to the Beat.” One of my favorite lines came from a message on humility:

The essence of “God blesses those who are humble (or those who are meek)” is that God can work with people who don’t think they are superior to others—but where there is arrogance and aggression, God’s blessing is not there.

Jean Vanier, in his book Becoming Human, says:

The illusion of being superior engenders the need to prove it; and so oppression is born. A bishop in Africa told me that, even though there were few Christians in the area, he had built his cathedral bigger than the local mosque. All this to prove that Christianity was a better, more powerful religion than Islam. So we build walls around our group and cultivate our certitudes. Prejudice grows on such walls. How did we, the human race, get to this position where we judge it natural to not just band ourselves into groups, but to set ourselves group against group, neighbor against neighbor, in order to establish some ephemeral sense of superiority? One of the fundamental issues for people to examine is how to break down these walls that separate us one from another; how to open up one to another; how to create trust and places of dialogue.

The illusion of being superior engenders the need to prove it; and so oppression is born.

God, help us to be humble. We want to see the great worth and dignity of all people. Help us to love, to be curious, to listen, to care, and to bless others.

“If we see the world as an arena of competition we view others as competitors. But if we see the world is a gift we view others as companions. The world is a gift and we are lucky enough to have our share in it. Let us be grateful to God and gracious to one another.” —Brian Zahnd

He has told you what is good. What does the Lord ask of you? To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6.8

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

3 Comments to The Illusion of Superiority

  1. I’ve missed your posts–glad to see your thoughts again. My upbringing left me with a tangible sense of never being enough in so many areas, coupled with the tension of always feeling I had to prove myself to those around me. What I remember of the foundational church teaching was that I had to earn God’s attention, and that we were the “true” church. A real “us-and-them” outlook. I have a constant barometer in my head that ranks me against those around me, in spite of my best efforts to turn it off. It shows up especially as I rub shoulders within the art world. So the “competitor/companion” exhortation is helpful–to help see myself as walking with those around me, and not running against. Thanks.

    • Thank you Cathy. I love this reminder to be companions rather than competitors and to see myself as walking with those around me, not running against them. And your word picture of a constant barometer in your head ranking yourself against those around you—wow… I think we all know this struggle.

      On another note—today, I was sitting on the back porch and the trees were busy and noisy with birds. An adult male western tanager flew in and landed on a branch, just long enough for me to see its bright orange head and yellow body (but not long enough for me to snap a picture). It was my first time seeing one of these.

      • Lucky! I hardly ever see them here; and I’m impressed you could i.d. it, but Shari is your wife. They are quite exotic-looking.

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