A man and woman, probably in their early twenties, were walking down the sidewalk. Neither looked particularly happy being with the other, and the woman especially had a look on her face of I despise everything about this person next to me.
The woman reached into her pocket and pulled out a cell phone. As she started looking at the phone, the man without warning yanked it out of her hand, replaced it with a soda he had been holding and started looking at the phone. The woman shook the cup to see if anything was left. When she saw it was empty, she tossed it into a bush, and on they walked.
What a miserable exchange that was, I thought to myself. The man’s actions showed no regard for the woman, nor did it appear the woman had much regard for him or the owner of the property where she tossed the trash.
There could be many explanations for their actions, but such exchanges, where little regard is given to others, is multiplied over and over again every day in our society. It happens on the streets, in the workplace, in politics and even in our families. Where does all this negativity come from?
In 1989, President Ezra Taft Benson, a former leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave an address on the subject of pride. He taught, “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.'”
Later on he stated that pride “is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”
President Benson also taught that a “face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.”
Left unchecked, pride destroys relationships. It destroys happiness. It destroys peace. So much of the ills we see in our society and government stem directly from the enmity people feel one for another. When pride is the driving force of our actions, any kind of collective progress is halted.
A prime example of that is in our national politics and public discourse. The political climate has deteriorated into a venom-filled game, where Republicans and Democrats spend all their time in public demeaning the other side and refusing to work together to tackle the most important issues our society faces. The media fills the airwaves and Internet with biased news reports as well as a constant barrage of analysts demonizing the politicians they don’t agree with. They seem primarily focused simply on stirring up hostility, rather than solving any kind of problems.
These actions are rubbing off on society, where it is becoming almost impossible to have a real conversation with someone aligned with the “other side.” There is simply too much enmity in the air to have a productive discourse.
I believe there is a fear within many of us that listening to another view point somehow degrades our own. Going even further, many often tie their personal worth to their opinions. Thus any differing opinion is taken as a personal attack. Many of us are so afraid that if another person offers valid points in a conversation, constructive points that can carry us toward a solution, then that person wins, and therefore the other side loses. Lost in the game is an objective discovery of what is right.
This is stems directly from pride, and it is paralyzing us.
The antidote is charity. Charity is pure love, the highest form of love. Charity sees the inherent worth in every human being. A charitable person rejoices in the success of others and does not feel diminished when others do well. A charitable person is kind and patient, even with those who have different points of view. This type of person first seeks to understand another. A charitable person seeks to solve problems for the good of humanity, not for recognition or credit or to win at the expense of others.
When a group of charitable people come together, they possess great power to solve problems. Free from enmity and selfish aspirations, the group can focus together on seeking for and defining true principles and identifying the solutions that spring from those truths.
Being prideful is easy. Resenting others is easy. Tearing people down is easy. Being charitable requires a change of heart. It takes effort to desire others’ best interest and build people up. It requires an effort to see each person as someone of worth.
Being prideful ultimately destroys people, families and societies. Being charitable brings fulfillment, joy, peace and prosperity. We should strive for the trait of charity and expect nothing less from our leaders.