In “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape in one letter is writing about
the virtue of humility in order to instruct on how to assault it:
“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.”
I can attest to this sort of inner conflict very well, and it comes up also in the struggle against sin in general. I often catch myself thinking in a moment that “I’ve become a much better person over the past few years,” and while by the grace of God that may be true, in the interest of honesty I have to admit that I don’t always consider it as having happened by the grace of God. So we see the insidiousness of the Devil’s plots – that even when we realize that we are being sanctified and changed as new men, he sets barbs of pride in us.
Knowing this, however, I find myself by the Grace of God able to proceed to the point where I realize and laugh at the absurdity of the pride/humility cycle, choosing instead to rely with humility on God to know my heart and forgive what pride is there.
I bring all this up as a personal reminder, but also because I have for a long time been progressing in awareness of how much I – and sadly, most people – pursue instant gratification. We are often caught believing that because we, as adults, generally don’t pitch temper tantrums, we must not be very needy or insistent on instant gratification. I know however that for instance when it comes to hunger and fast food restaurants, I am very much at fault for instant gratification.
Where the irony comes in is that, in my struggling against various sins related to instant gratification, I often become frustrated in the slow gains I am making.
And so I have come to realize that in my striving against instant gratification, I am ironically guilty of demanding instant gratification.
So, yet another reminder to rely on God’s Grace 🙂