Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Heart of Narnia: Humility and Pride

The following is excerpted from my book The Heart of Narnia, Chapter 7: Humility and Pride ...

More than a thousand years have passed since the White Witch was defeated in the first Battle of Beruna, and Narnia is once again ruled by a cruel and unjust leader: the usurper Miraz. The rightful heir to the throne is thirteen-year-old Caspian, whose father was murdered by Miraz. Caspian's struggle to overthrow the false king is the subject of Prince Caspian. The War of Deliverance, as it comes to be known, culminates with the second Battle of Beruna, which takes place on the same site as the battle that saw the defeat of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Following combat with the High King Peter, Miraz is killed by one of his own men, and his army is defeated. Aslan arrives on the scene, his presence sending fear throughout the ranks of Miraz' remaining soldiers but filling the hearts of talking beasts with joy.

When Aslan asks if Caspian feels ready to become king of Narnia, Caspian replies that he doesn't think so. Aslan is pleased: "If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not." Humility is rewarded, and King Caspian begins his rule of Narnia with the blessing of Aslan.

Caspian's humility is exemplary. But in the Chronicles, even good characters exhibit pride at times. Many of them - including Jill Pole, Aravis, and the talking horse Bree - learn from their mistakes and grow in character. Unfortunately, other characters do not learn from their pride and so suffer the consequences. We will be looking at the range of prideful and humble attitudes in the Chronicles with an eye to how they reflect our own attitudes and what they teach us about how we ought to think about ourselves.

Pride is a temptation each of us struggles with in one way or another. Instead of recognizing that all of the good gifts we possess were given to us by God, we act as though we can take credit for them. Healthy self-respect crosses the line into arrogance. Striving to do better becomes selfish ambition. And along the way, our relationships with others and with God suffer (for who likes to be around a conceited person?). We set ourselves up for the letdown that will surely come when we are forced to face a more reasonable estimation of who we are. Even when we make progress in becoming humble, we can start to be proud of our humility! What are we to do?

It is possible to learn from our past mistakes of pride and to mature in character. We learn as much from the humbler characters of Narnia. According to C. S. Lewis's theory of ethics, good choices to act humbly, taken one after the other, can result in a character of true humility over time. But before we go any further with this line of thought, first we must ask ourselves a few basic questions. What is meant by humility and pride? How did Lewis use these terms?

The concepts of humility and pride are familiar to us all. Yet as we examine them closely, we discover that they are more complex - and more interesting - than they at first may have appeared.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. All rights reserved.

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