Monday, February 23, 2009

Prideful Humility?

Today, I’ve been thinking about pride and humility. I can’t decide if I feel humble, proud or prideful and what exactly does each of those mean.

Yesterday, a fellow UU, Sue Owen Kinsey, and I had a worship service on forgiveness. We split up the subject into two perspectives, she spoke from the heart about why it is necessary to apologize, change, and make amends when necessary. She spoke eloquently about different levels of making apologies and what each entails in order to be meaningful. Sue came and did the service, did an awesome sermon, and animated my stuffed dog, Aurora, who played the part of Gloria when I read Peggy Rathmann’s story called Officer Buckle and Gloria. Sue took the time to do scan some pages into the computer fro the service and met with me to go over details on Tuesday. She did all of that while spending much of the last few weeks at the hospital as her husband has struggled in and out of intensive care. I feel humbled at her dedication, thoughtfulness and strength. I feel humbled that she did her part of the sermon without stumbling or hesitation, and without looking at her written words, turning her legal pad pages at the appropriate points. When I marveled to her at her feat, she smiled and said that each of the nurses at the hospital had heard it about ten times. I stand in humble appreciation of her dedication and insight.

I feel humbled by the understanding of the universal experience that people expressed to me after the service, humbled to know that I am just one of the vast sea of humanity that needs compassion and forgiveness, understanding and love.

I also feel proud. I feel proud of the way the service came together so smoothly without much planning, discussion or fuss. Sue did her part, Pia chose the beautiful music, Jennifer played accompaniment, the choir serenaded us, Cheryl coordinated me, Pia and Sue as we e-mailed and called her with details for the order of service, and Deb did research for me to find the perfect reading and quote for the cover of the order of service. I am proud to be a part of such an amazing gathering of souls.

Another thing I feel proud of is the sermon that I wrote. I worked very hard to whittle it down to eleven minutes (not quite the ten minute maximum that I promised). I know and you know that I talk too much, so I was proud at trimming away all but the essential message with enough spice added in to make it interesting. I am proud that I was able to dissect my process of how to forgive, and put into words a formula that works for me, and hopefully will for others as well. I am proud that after the service, people came up to me and Sue and wholeheartedly thanked us and shared ways in which our words moved them. I am proud that three different people encouraged me to go to seminary, and as far as I know, none of them knew that I have been thinking about that.

Another emotion that I feel, which for me has a negative connotation, is prideful. Being proud of a deed well done is different from what I think of as prideful. To me, being prideful is almost the opposite of being proud. It’s an ego-centric over-inflated sense of self-congratulations, like being proud, but in a selfish way. I think it may just be that selfish pride that I was warned against while growing up Catholic. It’s like an appreciation for a strived-for perfect moment, but with that over inflated sense of entitlement wrapped in as well. You know the one, that sense of entitlement that I often rave about and rage against. It’s here in me, not just “out there”.

Knowing that I feel this prideful entitlement also brings me back to humility. I am humbled by the knowledge that I can’t just be proud and accepting of beauty and moments of perfection. I secretly gloat when I’ve had a hand in that moment.

Permeating all of those feelings is a profound gratitude. I feel gratitude for the difficult and happy experiences that have honed me into who I am. I feel gratitude for my family, even though while growing up I never believed that Yvette was the little French girl that they found in the ditch. I thought that was really me and that someone forgot which was who. I feel gratitude to my church family for trusting me to speak my truth and for letting me know that it is also their truth.

So, I leave you with this question: Where should we draw the lines between defining prideful egotism, proud recognition and humble acknowledgement of one’s small role in the vastness which is this amazing universe? And, should a value judgment be connected with any of those categories of feelings?