To be Poor in Spirit

How little we know what a human life really is – even our own. To judge us by what we call our actions is probably as futile as to judge us by our dreams. God’s justice chooses from the dark conglomeration of thought and act, and that which is raised towards the Father shines with a sudden burst of light, displayed in glory like a sun. . .

But in the end one would thankfully accept, as divine favours, setbacks and humiliations which are simply the inevitable results of our folly. This diary is of immense help in forcing me to see my own share of responsibility in so much bitter disappointment. And now again, I’ve only to set pen to paper to awaken in me the knowledge of my deep inexplicable incompetence, superhuman clumsiness. . . .

It’s a fine thing to rise above pride, but you must have pride in order to do so. I have no right to speak freely of honour in the worldly sense, it is no subject of conversation for a poor priest like myself, but I sometimes feel we’re apt to belittle honour. We’re all of us liable to lie down in the mud; it seems a cool, soft couch when hearts are jaded.  And shame, you know, is a sleep like any other, a heavy sleep, a dreamless intoxication. . . . If a last shred of pride can stiffen the back of some wretched creature, why quibble about it? . . .

I’m convinced I have never had enough self-confidence. To doubt oneself is not to be humble, I even think that sometimes it is the most hysterical form of pride, a pride almost delirious, a kind of jealous ferocity which makes an unhappy man turn and rend himself. That must be the real truth of Hell. . . .

So often have I been told to be ‘simple.’ I do my best. It is so hard to be simple. Worldly men talk of simple people as they do of ‘humble people’, with the same indulgent smile. But they should speak of them as of kings. . . .

Though I have judged myself severely at times, I have always known that I possessed the spirit of poverty. The spirit of childhood is much akin. No doubt they are really one and the same thing. . . .

The strange mistrust I had of myself, of my own being, has flown, I believe forever. That conflict is done. I cannot understand it anymore. I am reconciled to myself, to the poor, poor shell of me.

How easy it is to hate oneself! True grace is to forget. Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity – as one would love any of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ. . . .  Grace is everywhere.

 – Georges Bernanos, in The Diary of a Country Priest

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