Ever feel like there is something beautiful hidden inside a decidedly unattractive event or season of life?
I felt that recently and wrote this piece to try to unravel the mess that was covering up the beauty. Somehow, I felt that there was joy – beauty – being uncovered as pride fell away. (Pride is, quite literally, unattractive.)
I realized that I wanted to write something joyful about the process of letting pride go. But I think people – people like me, at least, who grew up with the ‘I can do all things’ mindset – have a hard time seeing pride as a bad thing.
To those of us who have pride in our pride, if you know what I mean, letting go sounds anything but joyful. But I am learning that pride is actually a nasty combination of poison and prison.
Pride is poison
Pride is poison because it only gives the impression of life as long as we are convinced that there is nothing we cannot do. When you fail, your pride will stab you in the back.
If you believe that you can handle anything life gives you, you’re either 18 or you’re deluded. There are things you cannot do alone. And – Newsflash! – some of them are truly important things.
Take marriage, for example. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to do it alone. I could write a book about trying to make a marriage work by force of my own will. (Maybe I’ll write it some day.)
Pride poisons you every time you fail. At anything.
(The joyful part is coming. I promise.)
Pride is a prison
Pride is prison because it isolates you from others who want to care for you.
Actually, I think it can be a chicken and an egg question. Some people – me, maybe? – get the idea, whether accurate or unfounded, that they aren’t worthy of being cared for. So, we take on an ‘I can do it alone’ kind of pride.
And what to do if the only person who will ‘make life work’ is you?
Get really good at making life work, thank you very much!
Besides, we’re supposed to be proud of our skills and abilities, right? Voila! Ready made person who doesn’t need anyone else’s help for anything.
The problem is, our hearts need other people’s help.
Our hearts need other people, not because we are incapable of getting the task done; though sometimes that’s true. We need others because we were made to love and be loved. (And don’t tell me that God loves you and that’s enough. He made us to love each other. That doesn’t mean just giving love. It means receiving it too.)
Where is this joy I’m talking about?
The joy is in getting out of the prison and stopping the flow of poison. But it’s not that easy. Pride is comfortable, if you’ve lived with it for a lifetime.
I’m experiencing this. Right now, while I plan my wedding, I’m trying to let people care for me and finding it harder than expected. I’m frequently blindsided with wonder. “Why are people doing this? Why are they helping us?”
(No, we are not yet married. Yes, I will share that story at a later time. For those of you who need a moment to pass judgement, I’ll be right here when you get back.)
In a time of life when circumstance has overdrawn our bank account and our hearts, we are trying to plan a wedding celebration. And I’m learning what a prison pride has kept me in. I’m also learning that letting love in is not as easy as it seems. It feels like I have to ration it in, take little doses until my heart can handle it, kind of like I would do with water, if I were dying of thirst.
Pride would tell me to figure out how to have the best wedding possible on the minutest of budgets. Pride would have me settling for a sad, little celebration without any of the comforts and pretty things that could make it special.
But, as I let go of my pride and give over control of our meal plans to the marriage ministry at our church, for example, I’m learning a few things.
I’m learning to believe that people want to care for me for no reason but the call on their hearts to do so.
I have a habit of thinking that says, ‘You are on your own and no one will truly take care of you for no reason. People only care for you when you provide them with something of value in return.’
But it’s not true. Thinking about this makes me cry. It’s so hard to believe that people just love and care without requiring payback.
I’m also learning that the comforts and the pretty things don’t make the joy.
I thought it was the comforts and pretty details that made the environment to create joy in the hearts of attendees. I believed those were the mechanics of a joyful celebration.
Turns out the joy comes because of the people who love you just because. It’s another chicken and egg scenario. The joy of the family and friends who know you well and the ladies of the marriage ministry who may barely know your name causes them to create comforts and pretty things for you, if they can.
This prison that keeps people at arm’s reach also perpetuates the poison that pride dishes out. If I’m going to avoid paying the price for the care of others then I’d better do things right. Cause if I mess up, pride is going to remind me that I failed.
The beautiful thing of letting go of pride is that, no matter what the marriage ministry ladies cook, they can’t fail. Because they’re really not cooking food at all. They’re cooking up care.
And that’s where the joy is. The joy is in a hot plate of who-knows-what. And I hope they made a lot ‘cause I might like a second helping.