Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pride and Shame

I have been given much in life.  My parents had done well in life, and were able to provide well for me.  I am intelligent, tall, and I have a knack for getting along well with most people.  I identify myself first and foremost as a smart person, and I feel proud of my intelligence.

And yet, there is little reason that I should feel proud of what I have been given, any more than I should feel proud of a car that I won in a lottery.  God has granted me a great gift.  He has not granted the same to others.

By the same token, I feel shamed of my limitations.  I am a little overweight.  I have never been in the best physical shape.  I feel awkward and uncertain in many social situations.

In academia, I am immersed in a world of smart people, people who will challenge every idea that I have.  At times I will encounter people smarter than me.  Living in this world has dulled my pride, and perhaps deepened my shame.  After all, I have never identified myself as strong, but my identity is wrapped up in being intelligent.  When I find people smarter than me, it cuts at my very core.

Pride is a great sin, perhaps because of this question of identity.  My identity should be that of a servant.  I live to serve God and my fellow man, and I have not been doing a good job of serving.

Perhaps shame is a sin as well.  It can consume you, if you let it.  If your purpose in life is to overcome your faults (and avoid shame) or maintain your identity (and retain pride), you are not committing your life to service.  It is not a sin to make yourself a better person -- I would argue that God gives us this imperative -- but it should never come before God or before your fellow man.

And so I will work on both humility and acceptance of my faults.  I have a ways to go; at the moment, I am at best sheepishly proud of my abilities.  But better to be sheepishly proud than falsely humble.

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