What’s the Six-Pack Holding You Back?

I recently had some friends over for dinner. The night before, I bought a bunch of food and drink. I needed room in my fridge, so I removed a six-pack box that had one beer left. The box sat on my fridge’s top shelf for a while, and it kept that position solely due to some sentimental value attached to it. I didn’t want to throw it out, but at the same time, I needed somewhere to put my new supplies—and those were perishable. Thus, I put the box aside, filled up my fridge with my groceries, and went about my day. 

The next morning, as I groggily prepared myself breakfast, I opened my fridge door. Something seemed off. The inside of my fridge looked bigger now. I had so much space! Did my friends and I really eat that much food the previous night? Was something missing? Or taken? I was perplexed. It took a couple trips, but it finally dawned on me: That six-pack box wasn’t in there anymore. I had gotten so used to it over the past couple months, it basically became part of my fridge. Even though the box was taking up room and doing nothing productive, I eventually grew used to it— to the point I didn't even notice its presence. It took a need—i.e., space for my friend dinner food—to inspire the change. But now that the change happened, my fridge was better for it. The box would not be making a return.

The point of this anecdote isn’t to remind you to look check your fridge, or clear out your closet, or do any sort of actual cleaning. Rather, it is to ask yourself: What are you holding on to that you don’t really need? As a packrat, I can argue just about everything I hold on to is important and has meaning to me (all my junk brings joy), so I understand how hard it is to let go. And not everything has to be banished with extreme prejudice. But if you needed to get rid of something temporarily, and you can’t even remember it the next day—heck, you even find life is better without it—then that could be a sign that the object/feeling/emotion/memory needs to be let go.  

I held on to that box because of the memories associated with a person who used to be in my life. And maybe, in a way, continuing to hold on to that box was holding me back mentally or emotionally. That may be some Instagram-level psychology, but at the end of the day, my fridge is better off with the space—and my heart and mind are better off moving forward too. It’s OK if not everything stays around forever. Even if we’d like it to. 

Modern Devils

Every good Catholic school kid knows that when the Devil comes up in your Bible lesson, it’s time to pay attention. I mean, it’s the Devil! Satan. Prince of Evil. The Fallen Angel who presides in Hell, king of the damned. Pretty riveting stuff—especially for an impressionable kid. I remember seeing the Devil depicted in Animaniacs, and it freaked me out. Heck, even saying the word “Satan” made me shudder. The Canossian Sister who taught me did a good job hying up the fear. 

But eventually, kids grow older, and they just don’t scare as easy. Images of goblins with pointy tails, horns, and oversized forks—while still kinda creepy—don’t necessarily conjure terror, either. Instead, the devil—the physical encapsulation of “evil”—becomes more abstract. Not everything is subjective, of course: People can point to plenty of examples both in history and today of evil in the world. But this notion of a “devil” behind the world’s ills doesn’t have as much traction.

Maybe it should.

I’m not here to suggest a red demon underneath the earth is pulling at a bunch of levels to try and tempt people to do wrong. I’m also not arguing there is a supernatural force, an awesome power, that is engaged in outright war with the forces of Good, with humanity’s fate in the balance. That’s a discussion for another time—and for someone more qualified than me to have.

However, I do think there is something to be said about a force that drives people to do selfish—and even bad—things. Sometimes in the name of good itself! That force, as described by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: Pride, or Self-Conceit. 

He explains why:

“Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: It is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

This may seem a little confusing, especially when we treat pride as a generally good attribute. Like, people should take pride in their appearance so they don’t look slovenly; they should take pride in their work because you want to deliver a good product for your customers; they should take pride in their heritage as a way to pay respect to those who came before them. But that kind of pride is different from Lewis’s pride—though it’s also not very far removed from it, either. 

Pride emboldens people by giving them confidence. And confidence is a wonderful motivator: It can provide courage, which is necessary to do difficult things. However, too much confidence (like too much of anything) could end up driving reckless behavior. The more pride you accumulate, the more blind you become to your shortcomings and your vulnerabilities. 

Nothing about this state is inevitably permanent. It can ebb and flow. I freely volunteer myself as an example. There have been times when pride has overwhelmed me, and I thought I could do no wrong. Fortunately, it swung back the other way, and I got humbled. However, as is the human condition, nothing ever stays still—eventually, the pride returns. It’s something that requires constant checking, but it can be limited to an extent, so long as you’re being honest with yourself. Which is difficult to do indeed. 

However, the real danger of overwhelming pride, I think, isn’t the fact that it can cause you to do reckless things. The real danger is that it can trick you into thinking you are alone. That nobody understands your problems. That you must handle the burden by yourself. That not even God—the highest power of them all—can lighten your load.

That is a dark, dark place. That is where I think the true devil presides. It tells you that you are all alone when really, you are being suffocated in its grasp.

But you aren’t alone. If you are lucky, you have family and friends who can help bring you out of that place. I count myself among the lucky. If you aren’t as fortunate, not all is lost—there are good people out there who are willing and able to help. 

The most important thing to remember, I think, is that in a world of almost 8 billion people, you are not running in this world solo. Your feelings may tell you that is the case; logic may even say your feelings are rational. But you aren’t alone. Feelings are powerful, and they blind us all the time. But even if you think there is no one else, there is at, the very least, the one that created you. And the Creator works through the created. The good people are there. And sometimes, they find you before you find them.