You probably missed Pope Francis’s chiding Christmas message to his senior clerics where he urged them to cast off prideful armor and embrace humility.
“Our times seem either to have forgotten humility or to have relegated it to a form of moralism, emptying it of its explosive power,” he said. “The humble give life, attract others and push onwards towards the unknown that lies ahead. The proud, on the other hand, simply repeat, grow rigid, and enclose themselves in that repetition, feeling certain about what they know and fearful of anything new because they cannot control it.” He called pride and arrogance “the most precious of the devil’s potions.”
In his book “Sailing True North,” retired Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander at NATO, addressed the same issue. “Learning to balance being right with being a leader is often a great challenge of character,” he said. “In today’s world … leaders must remember the fine line between the helpful characteristic of self-confidence and the toxic quality of arrogance.” He said a key to doing that is “to find our way to humility.”
To make his point, Pope Francis used the example of Syrian general Naaman (2 Kings 5). Admiral Stavridis used the example of Greek admiral Themistocles. In the former case Naaman listened to Elisha, abandoned his pride and humbled himself to find redemption. “Adopt the humility of Naaman,” urged Francis. In the latter case, Themistocles failed to heed to others and his persistent arrogance led to his humiliation and exile. “So often the doppelganger of success is arrogance,” wrote Stavridis.
Their messages should hit home to many of us and our political leaders, those who have adopted an arrogance of certainty that they know what is right and best. That conceit in itself is not sufficient for many, though. With closed ears and no shred of humility, they try to force others to comply with their convictions.
Such behavior dominates our politics today. Consider this Associated Press story from Iowa headlined “For GOP, national party line trumps bringing home the bacon”:
“It struck some Iowans as strange when the district’s Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks voted against a bill that would pour more than $100 million in federal money to repair and replace bridges into southwest Iowa.” That bill was the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed Congress in November.
The same thing occurred in Mississippi which is getting $4.4 billion for numerous projects. Calling it a “historic down payment on core priorities,” Sen. Roger Wicker was the only Republican to vote for the bill. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest, and Steven Palazzo toed the party line and voted “no.”
Notably, over $500 billion of the bill came from previously authorized infrastructure projects. These were included in an omnibus appropriations bill while Republicans still controlled Congress so Hyde-Smith, Guest, and Palazzo compliantly voted “yes” along with Wicker; only Kelly voted no.
We can expect similar behavior in the Mississippi Legislature this year. Most Republicans will rigidly vote the party line on key issues with no ear to the critical needs of their constituents.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” – Proverbs 11:2.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.