Fault #6: Pride.
This one is interesting. Because I have a lot of pride, but some of it is about dignity, and holding onto myself under pressure, and the refusal to back down when I truly believe in something. Pride can be about refusing to be victimized or humiliated. It can be self-respect. I have a commitment to act in ways that are congruent with my values, and I can be intransigent about that, and yes, proud.
There’s the danger of rigidity, of absolutism, and I am an ex-Catholic, so seeing the world in moral absolutes pretty much comes with the territory. But I also am so curious, interested in different ways of seeing things. Just don’t try to get me to condone, enable, or support prejudice, cruelty, violence, dishonesty, etc.
The other side of pride is the unwillingness to ask for help, to admit to your weaknesses, to admit you don’t know, don’t know how, are just as confused as everyone else. A person suffering from this kind of pride might, you know, benefit from writing about her faults for seven f&*^ing days in a row. It might soften her very stiff spine, the walls in front of her very tender heart.
Not that I’m speaking of anyone in particular.
When I was 17, I had this incredible experience. I had been fighting with my parents, with whom I distinctly did not get along, and who weren’t exactly treating me very well. I’d been a rebel in high school, but then I thought that skipping school and failing French and Biology was hurting my future and giving my parents way too much to blame me for, so I promoted myself to the college level classes and started making honors. I was still an outspoken atheist in an all girls Catholic school, but I was now a successful atheist, which does, believe me, make a difference. My parents kicked me out of the house twice that year, and both times the disciplinarian of my high school took me in. The second time, she just had me stay until school ended. The nuns knew I was an atheist (I mean, come on, this is me, EVERYONE knew I was an atheist), but they were all excited about mothering me through my graduation. The disciplinarian came to my convent room with a pair of white gloves for me to wear at my baccalaureate mass. There was so much love in her face. And I said, “Sister, I’m not going to the mass. I’m an atheist. I don’t do mass.”
I was 17, and I felt my integrity was at stake, and I still feel, now, that to go would have been to do violence to my sense of self. There was pride in my answer though, because of course I couldn’t tell her that in spite of my overwhelming and painful gratitude, accepting her help cut through me, because I wanted to take care of myself and not need anyone. I couldn’t tell her how painful it was for me that the nuns had a glimpse of the trouble I’d been struggling with all during the four years they’d known me. I hated being vulnerable. Promoting myself to the highest level classes in school and then excelling–that showed strength, and strength was what I wanted to show. Vulnerability, at that point in my life, had gotten me exactly nowhere.
This kind of pride keeps people at a remove. It is, in a way, dishonest. I mean, we are all vulnerable, we all need help, we are all, at times, needy, scared, confused, young.
But oh, to drop the wall of pride and stand in your unclothed humanity, willing to be seen, known, to risk rejection, judgment…pride is easier.
If perfectionism is the ultimate expression of shame, then perhaps pride is the ultimate expression of fear.
What does it mean to be truly brave? I can tell you that running with the bulls, or tubing down the Gila River in flood season, or free-climbing in the Alps or skydiving aren’t really about being brave. Standing up for someone, yes, but even more than that, bravery is being still in the moment in which you connect, in your utter vulnerability, with one other human being. To tolerate the nakedness, to hold onto your sense of worth, to risk not being welcomed or sheltered or loved…that is bravery.
I wonder if the couples therapist knows this. I wonder if the DSM IV has a catagory for that includes the ability to be vulnerable with whatever you have inside you.
I have too much pride for pathology or diagnoses, because I can tell you right now, they are judgments, dehumanizing, allowing the practitioner to pretend that she doesn’t have the same struggles as her clients.
I love the moments when we come to each other, and something pure happens, something beyond the daily detritus of living. I teach an acting technique that fosters this in the realm of creativity, and it makes me so happy when people find that moment, when they forget where they are and just stand in connection.
I will give up my pride for this, but not all at once.
Because contrary to even my own opinion, I am not completely and totally INSANE. I mean, this world isn’t so safe that you want to walk around all the time that naked.
Give me my sword and my pen. Give me the Light itself. Give me love, that I may know how to live.
Lovingkindness for you, especially if you are reading this on Labor Day Weekend.