Must I Choose between Pride or Shame?

The other day over coffee, my best friend and I were talking about our week and I brought up my blog. I told him about how I feel pride and shame are two sides of the same coin, like I wrote about some here. He immediately told me I was right on the money, and later on I wondered why we both saw this to be so instinctively true. So I’d like to explore in this separate post more about Pride and Shame, as well as how to overcome them. Now, I’m not talking about the pride we take in others because that’s a good emotion that builds up those around us. For example, I’m proud of my buddy for his successful business and how much he devotes to serving God, the Church, and his own family. Additionally, I’m not downplaying the importance of self-esteem, which I find to be a healthy form of building ourselves up. Instead, I’m talking about pride and shame as twin trunks rooted in the sin of selfishness, that instinctual lust we all have. This lust serves to protect all aspects of ourselves from any and all harm. Although that may seem superficially like a good adaptation, below that surface we’ll see this coping strategy as holding very little water.

The herbicide to those weeds is humility; it’s an ax at the roots of those trees. I say this because humility is the accurate view of ourselves. One that isn’t an overinflated, puffed-up balloon as pride demands nor a deflated, hateful view like shame veils itself with. No, what view I mean is the one, the accurate one, that comes from God: how He sees us. Though He sees us as imperfect, He also sees us lovable. We are indeed lovable, both created to love and be loved. But humility tempers us by showing within us what we can change and what we can nurture. A step further ahead is meekness (see more here), which is humility in the face of a struggle while simultaneously standing strong. Another way of putting that is that a meek person is humbled by the mountain before him, but also challenged by the climb he has set his mind on to make.

As for me, I do lean toward the pride side; I want to protect myself from feelings of rejection and, of course, the consequent shame. But I also fall into shame more often than not, for false humility can grab onto my heart. False humility as I see it is a transformation of pride, a sort of exaltation of lowliness, or romanticization of the illness in my mind. Some might call it trying to make the best out of a bad situation, but false humility is actually making an idol of that situation. It’s gilding garbage with gold, jewels, and precious gems. It’s making a bold and brash statement out of a painting that really does belong in the trash. But I don’t need it, because false humility quickly alternates back and forth between the forms of shame and pride, thus complicating matters unnecessarily.

All this is to come to a few thoughts on how to overcome pride and shame. I can’t say I have a quick fix, otherwise I’d have used it years ago. I can’t say I have a step-by-step procedure because I still struggle against both hammer and sickle pounding against me from all sides. But what I can say is that I am understanding the knowledge that if I submit myself to God, I could find my identity from Him rather that from others’ opinions or even my own. Because it’s His opinion that actually counts, and honestly, all it takes to please Him is faith, like the Word says in Hebrews 11:6. The verse says, “It is impossible to please God without faith…”

Pride will say, “I do not believe.”

Shame will say, “Although I have faith, what else do I need?”

Humility, even Meekness, will say, “Abba, Father!” as in:

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:6-7

Reject pride, reject shame. Accept humility and meekness. Inherit what God has for you.

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