Pride is a tricky master. Much of what pride does for us results in us being people that others respect. Pride gets us up at 4 in the morning to run because we want that killer physique. Pride teaches us how to pinch a minuscule amount of pennies to feed our families so we don't have to ask for help. Pride has us leaving the door in perfect hair and make up. Pride has us teaching our children how to behave in restaurants and gives us those perfectly trimmed walkways so that the neighbors won't think we're lazy, neglectful people. Because that's what pride ultimately does, it strokes our ego. In our culture, possibly most of the world, pride is a virtue. We're taught to take pride in our work. We constantly judged and affirmed by our level of competency. Not needing others or doing things completely on our own is looked on with a supreme level of respect.
Become a single mother and the ego strokes you will get for your pride kick up into high gear. "I have no idea how you do it all!" People will constantly tell you. "I couldn't do it if I had ____ number of children like you." "And you're going for your master's degree, wow! You must never sleep." Because never sleeping is a virtue in our culture. Add to all of that a penchant for physical fitness and all of the sudden the ego strokes you receive will practically choke you in their intensity.
But as with any perceived virtue that isn't actually a virtue, there's a backside to this one. There's the other side of the sword, the shadow of pride is this: You can do it all. You must do it all. It is all on you. Anything less is incompetence.
There is little that my personhood reacts as harshly to as being told it's incompetent. But for the last few days that is the word that has been banging around in my head. Because my pride, and LOOK all of the other affirmers I have, have been telling me, I CAN DO IT ALL, ALONE! But the truth is that I can not. I have not done it all alone up until this point and I will not do it all alone going forward. I get weighed, measured and found wanting on occasion by this world. Hopefully because my priorities are more eternal in nature but also because occasionally I JUST CAN'T DO IT ALL. I burn the candle at both ends, only to realize I dropped the one essential ball for the week. I forget to make dentist appointments for 2 YEARS. I struggle to manage all of the paperwork in my life until the bills are overdue because yeah, opening the mail, too much work this week, I was tired. The short people eat chicken nuggets and pizza and poptarts far more than I will publicly admit to because gosh darnit, we are busy! We run constantly! I just want to sit down. But just like pride "Chaos is never a virtue" (Lawrenz, 2012).
In a moment of absolute humiliation earlier this week I told my mother "I will not make it out of this life with an ounce of pride left." It occurs to me that this is probably by design. I want to hold on to my dignity, my pride. I want to keep it intact, because it feels like once I lose that, once I lose my distinct self-sufficiency, I will also lose myself. But that is not true. Is it?
Because solo isn't the way out of this world. If we are going it alone then we are terribly lonely. If we never need anyone else, then no one will ever need us. Because who wants to rely on a perfect person? We can't relate to that. And so in our perfection, in our pride, we isolate ourselves from the very people with whom we want to be in real relationship. By needing someone else, we give them a purpose. It might not be what we want to do. God knows, this incredibly stubborn, bull-headed, I-can-do-it-myself-just-watch-me, Irish woman, hates with an intensity beyond measure asking for help. But when I have asked for help, when I still do even now, my character grows, humility grows within me. I grow in community by admitting my short-comings to others. By admitting, I can not actually do it alone. I so desperately want to. So desperately, that I am the voice in my own head telling me how incompetent I am for not being able to. I become human to others in my short-comings. None of us can relate to the mom who has 4 children under 5 and a perfectly maintained home, we think she's an alien, we cannot relate to that. We need to be human, we need to be flawed, we need to admit we need each other, because humility and vulnerability and community are the paths to life and light, not pride and isolation. No one wants the perfect Shannon, the illusion of crafting a persona that highlights me as having everything perfectly together all the time is just a Facebook highlight reel, it's not real life, it's illusion and that crap doesn't make anyone love me more. It just makes other people affirm, ego stroke, and then shrink away feeling incompetent themselves. We need others, I need others. I can't do it solo. I so want to but I can't. And not being able to isn't a black mark against my character, it's God's Grace for me. Because my pride would be the death of me if he let it. I'm not yet grateful for this week's latest humiliation and desecration of my pride, but I at least now see the necessity of it.
No Man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.