Saturday, February 11, 2017

Catholic Hermit: Thoughts on Pride

I've observed recently that pride is pernicious.  If pride is a person's bugaboo in life and one has made spiritual advances in later years, it does not take much for the person to be sucked back into the slime of pride.

Some relatives of pride are envy and vanity.  Pride involves any sense of one's own self worth being somehow, perhaps subliminally, not what a person desires.  Thus, the person strives to place him- or herself above others and often by putting others beneath them.  Not always, however, is this the case.  Sometimes it suffices to simply keep oneself thinking and convinced of superiority; putting others down for an intelligent person with pride is too obvious.

However, a more subtle way in which the proud person can put others down is through criticism either to the person or of the person to others.  Of course, the criticism can come within the proud person's mind.

Envy and vanity often accompany--yes, like relatives in our familial lives--pride in life's journey.  For an intelligent proudster, there is not an overt envy, not an admittance of envy within the mind.  That is, also, too obvious to the one afflicted with pride.  So instead of directly confronting this aspect of pride in oneself--that of envy of others appearances, intelligence, talents, abilities, achievements--the proud person resorts to other means of masking the envy from him- or herself.  

(A proud person cannot bear to face pride within.  He or she is too proud for that humility of self-realization.)

To counter envy of others, a proud person tries to achieve all the more in a competitive mode.  Or the proud person does all to enhance his or her own personal beauty or handsomeness by major body overhauls, apparel, exercise, make-up, hairstyle.  If the proud person tends to physical unattractiveness, the envy will find outlet and reprieve from itself by other means in order to place itself above others.  

Vanity and envy are so interrelated that the proud person often does not distinguish between pride's closest, familial support systems.  We can come up with various scenarios as to how a proud person can use vanity and envy in quite subtle ways in offshoots of words and actions, thoughts, and deeds, to make oneself rise above others without being blatant--at least to oneself.

There will always be someone or other or many who will observe the machinations of how a person operates in sundry modalities in order to try to mask pride's markers of envy and vanity.

Yet there are other markers of pride.

One is that a proud person usually is prone to validating him- or herself.  Many words are used in this effort.  The proud person has a need to be in control of situations, thoughts, conversations, and verily most if not all aspects of his- or her personal life.  This often, then, extends to need to control others' lives, usually with criticism being a means of controlling others.

The proud person excuses this criticism by self-assurance that he or she is simply trying to help the object of criticism to improve or be a better person, or to be able to "fix" the others' perceived problems.

And what came to me the other day, is that a proud person does not have a sense of humor, or not much of one.  This insight on pride is one I've never considered before.  I suppose the subliminally low self-esteem of a proud person (perhaps from some childhood inadequacy or suffering) prohibits the proud person from being able to laugh at life's situations and incidents, laugh at him- or herself, or laugh with others.

Pride is extremely difficult to observe and diagnose in oneself.  The person needs abject honesty and brutal self-displacement--to view from outside of oneself and see as one truly is.  Or the proud person needs an ounce of humility enough to ask another to conduct an observation to deduce if pride haunts what otherwise could be a gracious or charming, engaging, and "fun" person to be around and to know.

In fact, proud persons can evoke a kind of shield around themselves such that others fear crossing them, for without a sense of humor, without humility, without grasping that they (and all of us) are nothing and God Is All--the proud person is like the stern master to whom a dog comes when slinking slowly toward the master in fear of being kicked.

There is no running, tail-wagging, toward a proud person.  There also is usually no leaping into the arms of nor giving well-appreciated kisses to a proud person.  Why?  Proud people with their buried low self-esteem have learned to not be all that approachable other than by those who are also proud or else have been enchanted by the performed grandiosity, title, comely appearance, stance, verbosity, or brilliance of which a proud person has been able to develop in life.

But once more, is there a sense of humor readily at hand?  Or does the proud person also try to convince and convey that, yes, he or she indeed has a great sense of humor by saying so--with an accompanying performance-grade laugh or chuckle.

For proud people usually are rather inhibited because they fear looking and seeming and being perceived or considered as less than perfect.  So to do something quite human and humble and linked by roots humilite, homo, humere, to even the root for soil--humus--is difficult for a proud person.  There is something in pride that struggles to cross into anything to do with humility be it human, earthy, or humorous--and I mean, again, in a natural, unforced, non-scripted manner.

These thoughts have come to me recently due to someone I love very much having backslid into a decades-long struggle with pride.  It may have started in childhood with a type of envy of other little girls and included vanity for she was pampered and protected by elder brothers and sisters.  Then when married, tragedy and heartbreak struck within a year or so of each other.

All the more, then, the wounded woman strove to reclaim her place and pride and standing among others who knew all about the sorrows and shame that befell the woman in addition to remembering the tragedy of her childhood which plummeted the family into struggles, bereft of financial standing as well.

In recent years--three or four--I'd rejoiced in that this person had become wondrously more spiritually focused.  She always did pray and attended church regularly, but the niggling pride kept sticking out like porcupine quills in what deceptively could look like a coat of mink fur.  Yes, in the past few years the person had developed some humble, prayerful friends and was part of their prayer group.  There was more desire in helping the poor and the more uneducated of the church.  

I see now that this down-tick in pride and turning to inwardly beautiful soul-effort came at the time the person had to detach from many possessions and enter an assisted living facility.  For we do realize that suffering can squelch pride like not much other in life.  Yet, if the suffering is short-term or the effects can be put behind us such as memories of suffering, or we rise beyond suffering through focus on material success and various other externals, we are only developing fertile conditions for all the more pride.

Whatever, I realize that for my part, I'd not been praying as much for the person when she dipped out of the intensity of pride around the time of down-sizing and facing end years.  I was taken by the beauty that came from her soul and the prayerful and faithful conversations.  Somehow, as pride reasserts its supremacy rather easily, it seems, this person became even more under the clutches of pride.  All the more there was criticism of others and more abrupt, rude comments usually kept within for one stage of pride has the person not wanting, out of pride, for others to see the less than perfect self.

But in a more advanced phase of pride, the person no longer cares what others think or how they feel, and the proud person has a sense of self-entitlement to not only be the center of attention but also to slay anyone else who may take up space or air or consideration.  The boundaries of self-possession and decorum begin to crumble if not outright mud-slide; the proud person no longer cares even to keep up the guard.

Yet again, the signal that has struck me the most is that a proud person has little to no sense of humor.  

And, of course, there is this other tell-tale sign:  A proud person takes offense at what others say or think whether positive, congratulatory, true, false, whatever.  Years ago a religious sister taught me this truth, that a sure sign of pride is if one takes offense.  

But in the advance stages of pride, others do not even dare attempt other than adulation and praise...or silence...when involving a proud person. Again, it the fortress is so high and impenetrable at a warmly approachable human level that it is pointless to say or write much if anything at all.

So the ultimate results of pride are this:  The person who to begin with had losses or sufferings causing feelings of inadequacy and want, ends up doing whatever to build his- or herself into a fortress of pride in various means and effects; and ultimately the proud person ends up very much alone--a fate worse than feeling inadequate to begin with.

The proud person is ultimately alone because others either do not want to approach or make contact, do not want to converse due to being criticized or put down in some way from effects of the pride of the proud person; or they approach and converse but only feed the proud person's pride all the more in order to avoid being literally or symbolically "be-littled."  

There's nothing much genuine about a proud person's self-created image; it is also no laughing matter.  Most sad, indeed, is the plight of the proud person.


The sum end of my thoughts on pride are for me to now take the observations and apply them to myself and my thoughts and dealings with others.   Praying and asking Jesus to unmask myself is a prerequisite for this exercise that should be repeated often and as needed.  

How will I know?  Well, if I take offense at anything anyone has said or indicated about me.  If I do not have a sense of humor or ready laugh.  If I resent that others have more of anything (other than wrinkles...!), or if I am dissatisfied with what God has served on my plate each day.  Also, and this is important:  If there is not suffering or if suffering has been overcome and in the past, beware of pride re-entering for we can feel quite proud indeed and in control of ourselves (and others) when we have pulled ahead in some temporal way.

I praise the Lord for the examples of proud persons in life be it in real-life encounters with the proud or in fictional characters based upon real-life, proud persons.  The proud provide us with an ever-ready check point for ourselves, so that we can compare and contrast and take the ax to the root of any pride attempting to take hold in us.

Well, there is always pride in us, lurking about, even if not causing problems...yet.  There is always the potential for pride, the seeds of pride, and our task is to pray and take strong efforts to know pride so well that we can see it at first or second glance, and stomp it while laughing at how ridiculous we are with whatever seeds of pride that we let germinate even for a thought moment.

One other thought on pride, though.  What do we do to help others who have pride to see their pride and do away with it, to humble themselves?  

Other than praying for the person, I suppose there is not much we should say or ought to confront, unless we are the person's parent or guardian as in teaching a child about pride and helping to stomp on examples of pride or pointing out pride in situations and others as a teaching tool.  We can do all to keep ourselves from pride, and that might prove an example for the proud person.  

Even if we bring up a conversation on the sin of pride, a proud person's pride is cultivated and encouraged by the devil; the devil will cause the proud person to react negatively or more often, with yet more self-deception.  A proud person easily and soundly, even reasonably, denies his or her own pride.  Or if very clever and bright, the proud person will concur pride is a problem but will do so out of pride--pride enough to want to appear as if humbly admitting to pride.

Yes, we must keep praying for the souls of those who are deep into pride and cannot sense it or see it in themselves, and for them to be kept from too much pride in future. At the same time, we must pray for our own souls to be released from whatever degree of pride in us and to be ever watchful for the signals that pride has roosted.  God will answer these prayers; He will handle the proud person one way or another, now, later, or at judgment with rectitude beyond.

Praying for humility, with sincerity, God will always answer. He will use earthly and spiritual means to squelch our pride while infusing humility. Suffering, truly, is a gift from God that keeps pride in check.  

These thoughts on pride are a little answer to prayer today, for I've been down on the mattress now for over a week with wretched pain.  And today I was all set to get back to work on my hermitage-farmhouse, and I was dreaming of being able to finish and sell and get out from under the financial strain and various else.  But just swishing the tub for a way-past-due bath caused my right elbow to flare painfully as if it had not been rested for over seven days.

I was quite discouraged and realized no work can progress here without my right arm.  All the finishing work remains:  drywall mudding, sanding, priming, painting, trim cutting, sanding, priming, painting, nailing, wood floors nailed after old floors leveled, tiling of shower and floor, yard work.

Pain is limiting and debilitating and depressing in its effects.  One must not take offense, though.  Either the Lord will provide a means to finish or there will be great humility in not finishing.  There will be less pride in not finishing unless the finishing can somehow be accomplished with extreme pain, and then the reminder of human weakness in suffering will help squelch pride.  

We can laugh on that one....

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