Mere Christianity: Isolation

There are so many points I would love to touch on in this week’s book discussion post that I’ve had a lot of trouble narrowing it down. CS Lewis makes some excellent points here. One of my favorites is that accepting who you are and being pleased with your accomplishments is not the same thing as pride. Rather, pride is an inordinate amount of concern with oneself and a feeling that oneself is more important than and/or superior to others. For me, that was an important delineation to make.

My favorite point—the one that grabbed me by the collar and opened my eyes in a new way—was the point that pride isolates the person who is bound by it.

A quote from Lewis:

“Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity—it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.” (Lewis, 111)

And now, an example (based on a true story, but with identifying details changed to protect the innocent):

Dan had a charmed life. His father was a very wealthy respected politician and his mother was the perfect politician’s wife. As a teen, Dan was smart, athletic, and popular. He made straight A’s without trying and lettered in several sports. When he graduated high school, he was accepted to a prestigious university, where he was also on several sports teams. He excelled at college (partly thanks to friends that he paid to do homework for him). He had the prettiest girlfriend, the flashiest car, and enough money to throw the most enviable parties. Life was one amazing dream for Dan. He hadn’t a worry in the world.

With a few phone calls from his father on his behalf, Dan was able to get a job straight out of college making more than most folks do after an entire lifetime in their field. He married the pretty girlfriend, moved her into a gorgeous home, where they threw the most sought-after parties.

By forty, Dan had a life that his friends could only dream of. A perfect job, a perfect wife, a vacation home, a yacht, several fancy cars. Though Dan knew he had everything in the world he could want, he realized that something was missing, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what it was.

Over the next months, a series of events fell like dominoes in Dan’s life. The first domino was the death of his Dad. Then, the subsequent remarriage of his Mom. She took everything her first husband had left her and moved to Europe with it, only occasionally calling to say, “No time to talk, Dear, I have to go meet the Countess for cocktails!” Then, his wife left him for his business partner, who he later learned hadn’t been a very good partner. Within months, the business was belly up.

With his finances in dire straits, he sold the vacation home, then the yacht and the cars. But he kept the big, empty house he had shared with his wife. And each day, he would pace the halls and wonder where his life had gone, where his wife had gone, and where his friends had gone—oh, yes, that’s right, they left when the money had gone.

That Spring, while pacing the aisles at the grocery store, Dan heard a familiar voice and turning, found himself face to face with his first grade teacher, Mrs. Wynn. She had changed over the years. Her once tall, thin body was now bent with age, osteo, and arthritis. But her eyes were as alive as ever. She had talked him into dinner at her house—chicken pot pies on TV trays and Wheel of Fortune on the 13-inch TV. But by the time Final Jeopardy (and graham crackers for dessert) rolled around, he had poured out his whole, sad story to her.

To Mrs. Wynn, the answer seemed obvious.

“Son, you’ve lived your whole life for yourself. You never had to work for anything and you never learned to appreciate anything you had, either. Why don’t you spend some time with some folks that are less fortunate than you? They need your help and it’ll make you count your blessings! My niece, Georgia, runs the food pantry over on Edwards Street. She can never get enough help.”

Dan drew back, horrified, but out of respect for Mrs. Wynn, only responded, “I’ll think about it.” But he never really did. He never went down the pantry on Edwards Street. He sat in his empty house and felt sorry for himself and all he had lost. Three months later, Dan put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Throughout his entire life, Dan could only see one person clearly. Himself. And when he had lost everything that he felt defined him, his pride was stripped away and he couldn’t find a reason to live. He lived for himself and he died alone.

Pride isolates.

That seems like a pretty extreme example. (Let me remind you, this is a true story.) And most of us aren’t walking anywhere near the same road as Dan was. But as I searched my heart tonight, I could certainly find areas in my life where I’m too prideful.

The first example I thought of in myself is that because I feel the need to seem strong and in control, I have a lot of trouble asking for help. But that isolates me. I end up by myself with my problem and no way to solve it, when if I’d only ask for help, God could use it to both fix my problem and build a bridge and a relationship between me and the person who assists me. In the past, when I have humbled myself and asked for help, those relationships have often turned out not to be shameful reminders of my weaknesses, but rather stepping stones to some of the greatest friendships in my life.

Where do you find yourself alone with your pride? Are you willing to let down your pride and step out of that place?

This post is part of the regular Wednesday book discussion on CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” that Jason Stasyszen and I are having on our blogs. A bunch of our friends are joining us and everyone is welcome to participate whether they’re reading along or not. If you’ll hop over to Jason’s site, you can read his take on the chapter and you can add your link to the widget if you’ve written about the chapter. Otherwise, please just hop around and make yourself at home!

About Sarah Salter


  1. You are swinging a 4×4 today in a good way Sarah. There is no victory to be had in living solely for ourselves.

  2. Dang, Sarah. I don’t like this story or that it happens to real people. It’s not right. Makes me want to shine Jesus all the more so more have the chance to respond to this incredible love and grace I’ve found. Thanks for the challenging post.

  3. I, too, have trouble admitting that I need help. Yet, I can see how being helpful to someone else has helped me. Why can’t I let someone else be blessed in the same manner without feeling shame?

  4. What a story that is, Sarah. And it could be any of us. Perhaps not in the exact details, but the sense of — it’s all of us. Great post.

  5. there was a time that i hated the child in me, because it was weak, and i did not want to be someone that people had to help. i hated having depression and how i was not able to do things. i did not want to be a burden on people. it made me feel so left out of life and weak. it was only later that i realized the truth of weakness. and though i don’t like going through it, i know that Jesus is so much stronger in my weakness. so now i don’t hate my child heart any more.

    i am sad for the man that could not see any light within the darkness he was in.

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