Tag Archives: pride

I enjoy tests because I’m prideful

Essentially, I enjoy tests because I love knowing things. C.S. Lewis would rebuke me for this. In his lecture, “Learning in War Time,” he stated that it’s dangerous to love the fact that we know something, rather than being intrinsically interested in the thing itself. To Lewis, loving the fact that we know something is the beginning of arrogance.

I’m inclined to agree with him. Still, I enjoy the gradual accumulation of knowledge culminating in a test. Pride is one of my vices. But I wish I’d been writing last year, and I wish I’d told you how frustrating my first year of school was. It was full of small facts without context. Only at the end of the year did I realize we had systematically surveyed all the intricacies of the human body. I may have forgotten 60% of what I learned, but the fact that I recall 40% means I know quite a lot.

But knowing something is morally dangerous. In whatever we do, we need to ensure our motives are pure. To be interested in science is to glorify God. To be interested in acquiring more knowledge is to glorify myself.

Perhaps this is one of the things that makes Christianity unique. The actions we take are important, but our intent is more important. God commands us to love him and to love people, but love is an emotion. God commands us to change our attitudes and our way of thinking. Once we do this, our actions will change. Enjoying the fact that I know something is arrogant. If I don’t recognize that, I may waste a lot of time trying to acquire knowledge so that I become greater. Instead, I should love science because nature displays God’s glory, and I should use the education he’s blessed me with to help others in any way I can.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

 

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“I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions.”

“My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself
with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed myself
and quieted my ambitions.”

-Psalm 131:1-2

For the past few years, this verse has been written on a note card and taped to the wall next to my desk. It reminds me that being great is not my concern. Having a great influence, effecting great changes–these are not why I’m here.

Max Lucado says the world needs “cardiac Christians.” The world needs people who are going to find something they’re good at, work at that thing until they become excellent at it, and never stop doing it until they’ve finished.

God didn’t intend for us to be experts at everything, and he didn’t intend for us to be wealthy or highly-respected. I’m interested in a lot of things, but God has only given me the time and talents to focus on a few things. I also tend to be prideful, to want to be the better than everyone else, but this is also a wrong attitude. God doesn’t want a bunch of gunners all wanting to be the best. He also doesn’t want a bunch of distracted, semi-competent Renaissance men. God needs cardiac Christians–people with purpose who are not distracted by “great matters.”

So calm yourself. Quiet your ambitions. Don’t be proud. Your pride will misguide you, but only God can direct you and make you profoundly useful. Seek God, and do something worthwhile with your life–even if that means doing something you regard as completely insignificant.

I’m the cream of the crop, I rise to the… middle?

For most of my life, I have been among the best of my peers in everything academically related. This changed for me in medical school, as it does for most people. The thing a lot of first year med students have trouble dealing with is the fact that nearly every one of their peers was also at the top of their college class. Unless you have a rare intelligence (or are masochistically hard-working), you won’t be at the top of your med school class.

Don’t get my wrong, I did just fine during my first year of medical school. I’m going to be an excellent physician. My grades are good, and there are plenty of students who didn’t do as well as me. My point is that there are also plenty of students who did much better than me. The ego I had going into medical school was tested and found to be much too big for its britches. So at the end of my M1 year, I was feeling a little defeated, since, like everyone, I’d been hoping to be the best of the best. In a fateful coincidence, I also didn’t have anything to do over the summer. I’ve always been good at research, and a professor at school had invited me to work in his lab over the summer. Hungry for some good hard science (which I’ve always loved) and the chance to do something I’m actually good at, I decided to do a little bench research. I don’t anticipate that it will look particularly good on a resume, I just thought I’d enjoy it.

The summer was wonderful. I was a scientist now. No longer a dejected first-year medical student, I was seeking to know something no one on earth has ever known before. My project was to isolate and characterize a protein involved in RNA processing. I started out very excited, working hard at transfecting bacteria with cloned DNA so they would produce massive amounts of the protein I was interested in.

Then, for awhile, I got discouraged–having come from a physics background, I wasn’t quite aware of the grueling hard work and failures that come with biomedical research. For awhile it looked like I might not even isolate my protein, let alone characterize it. But finally, two weeks ago, in the eleventh hour of my summer, I got protein! I grinned from ear to ear when I saw the big black splotches of protein in my gel. I even had time to run a few experiments and find out a little about how my protein behaves and what its function might be.

Now I was really something. Not only had I done some real science over the summer, but I’d finished the project I’d proposed to do. All through the summer, people had been asking me about whether I was doing an MD/PhD, and I started to seriously consider it. I was good at this, and I could just imagine myself being the best of the best again, doing cutting-edge research and understanding things no one else understood…

I guess the ego comes back easily. Since my grades are only good, and not excellent, it’s unlikely I’d get accepted even if I wanted to spend three extra years in medical school. So on Friday it was out with the research, and this morning it was in with more medical school. Back to the still slightly-dejected, middle of the bell-curve life of me as a medical student.

(Again, don’t get me wrong. I love medical school, but a little conceited part of me still misses being on top.)

“My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself
with great matters or
things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed myself
and quieted my ambitions.”
-Psalms 131:1-2