For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.
I have met a few lovely people who quite naturally seem to have their ego under control. It doesn’t appear to cost them any effort and it even seems they have no ego. Of course, anyone you can relate to has an ego because this is what makes us distinct. If we weren’t separate we wouldn’t be capable of dying to ourselves and rising into deeper union.
Most of us have relatively wounded egos. Through the long process of psychological development and individuation, the ego accumulates painful memories and fears that form patterns that form our personality. No separation occurs without pain and pain leaves a scar in memory. Without great love surrounding it to heal this repeated wound, the ego builds distrust and learns to dissemble to protect itself. Sometimes it becomes inflated and aggressive to compensate for its imbalance. Sometimes it becomes timid and insecure, terrified to be seen or heard. Sometimes we flip from one type of ego to another.
Whoever has grown up with minimal damage has been wrapped from the beginning in love. They have a more balanced inner world, in which the lever of the ego operates gently – as a medium of communication rather than a weapon. They are nicer people. When they go to a social event they don’t worry about whether they will be get recognition or upgraded to a higher table. They might be curious about what will happen but won’t feel the egotistical anguish of those who need and crave applause or who are terrified of being noticed.
As most of us do not have such well-balanced egos, today’s gospel offers a practical and compassionate wisdom. Make an extra effort to avoid what the ego craves or fears and then, do not feeling proud because you have done the right thing. Thus you will be ‘exalted’. This doesn’t mean becoming the latest star of X Factor. A YouTube clip of you facing an adoring audience, astonished at your talent, won’t go viral.
It’s quite another kind of exaltation, in which, detached from success or failure, your ego can laugh at itself. Freed from the grip of self-fixation you can give your attention, your self, to others, with the delight of seeing the transformation that pure, selfless attention can work.