These days I’m itching quite a bit. I’ve battled eczema for 30+ years and winter is particularly troublesome. Even though scratching ceaselessly is terrible for my skin, scratching the itch is satisfying. It feels good. C.S. Lewis uses this imagery to describe pride. He writes:
“The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard, we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and the sky).”
The itch of self-regard craves the scratch of self-approval.
Self-regard, or the “look at me” mentality, is something we probably associate with boasting. We’ve all encountered it and we’ve all done it: “I deserve applause because I’ve accomplished so much.” The itch of pride needs the scratch of admiration.
But self-regard isn’t just on display through boasting; it’s on display through self-pity. Self-pity says, “I deserve applause because I’ve suffered so much.” The itch of pride needs the scratch of admiration.
Boasting is easier to label as “sin.” Self-pity…not so much. Why? Self-pity sounds like self-sacrificing. And self-sacrificing is pious, right? Not so fast.
The need self-pity feels doesn’t come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. In essence self-pity says, “Look at all I’ve endured; consider how much I’ve suffered; listen to my list of grievances experienced; and give me my due. I deserve better.” Self-pity is boasting’s sibling. They both originate from the same source: pride.
Jesus shows us how to suffer unjustly. Throughout the torment of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus never once uttered words that smacked of self-pity. His demonstration of humility was astounding. He was holy throughout the totality of the injustice. Let’s look to him and learn from him.