I have long been fascinated with the phenomenon of sophomore pride. By that I mean the sudden condescension toward lowerclassmen on the part of the person who has by the skin of his teeth survived a terrifying freshman experience. Or of the haughtiness of the fraternity man who only yesterday trembled through a hazing. It seems there is always someone just under you whom you can feel better than.
I am a humble person at the restaurant where I work. A waitress more than half my age is nimbler, faster, more accurate, more observant, more efficient—and makes it all look easy. Among my co-workers I feel lowly, and grateful for their constant graciousness and patience.
But then I come home. There I am on my turf, in a house where I have been queen bee for 15 years. Here I am the efficient and observant one, and my husband is the new guy in town who doesn’t quite know where the Tupperware goes yet, or the best route to get to Sam’s Club. I figure that by this time he ought to know these things, and in two minutes flat I forget all the graciousness and patience I was the beneficiary of a half hour earlier in the restaurant.
Jesus tells a story about that syndrome in Matthew 18: There was “a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.” A man who owed the monarch a lot of money begged for mercy and was granted it—and then turned around and was unmerciful to another poor wretch who owed him a little. One moment he was duly humble and cognizant of his deplorable estate, and the next moment he was contemptuous of a fellow man in a similar state.
It is a remarkable thing, really, how swiftly pride rushes into a heart. I have been a struggler with food obsession, and then I have been a person free of struggle with food addiction. And when I am free from struggle, you should see how fast I tend to forget what it was like and how unsympathetic I can be.
“In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip” (Job 12:5).
But this revolving door of humility and contempt is not necessary. God is able to change a heart and make it stick, and He is doing it. Praise be to God for a new job that brings me back to a place where I can see my utter neediness while rekindling my compassion for my fellow man.