“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pride sucks or "I am better than you!"

I have been thinking a lot about pride as it relates to a variety of areas in my life, but particularly in relation to persons with disability.

If I were honest with myself, I think I would say that I believe I am better than my cognitively disabled friends. Its shameful to admit that, but I believe it is true. I am smarter than most, I am physically better off than most, I am wealthier than most, I have more opportunities (which of course I feel I deserve because of my efforts, my hard work), and on and on. The only thing which in any way reigns in my self-absorbing pride is the fact that God tells me that I am not better than anyone else. God tells me that we are all equal. In fact, the fact that I believe I am better, may make me worse than many others, particularly those I feel I am better than.

But I don't think that my problem is restricted to me (unfortunately). I honestly believe that in their heart of hearts, most of those who attend a church and call themselves Christians hold the same perspective as I do about how I/we, rank in relation to those among us who are disabled. I/we, like to say that we are all equal at the foot of the cross, but I (for example) have a Ph.D. and many of my friends are cognitively disabled, so obviously that can't be true. I/we say that we want to evangelize the world, however, I/we won't go out of our way to bring a disabled person to church so that can't be true. I mean, either I don't think the disabled person is worth my time, worth my effort to be picked up (because I am too busy to pick him up, or I have plans after church, or something else related to me and my importance) or I honestly do think they are my equal or perhaps even my better and do go out of my way to pick them up.

On several or more occasions the NT states that salvation is a gift, "so that no one can boast." So I/we don't boast about my having access to the most important thing, the point of life, because it is a gift, but I/we am quick to boast (although through socialization, not out loud) about all the other things I/we am able to do, which are of course, once again based upon my/our own efforts. I boast by my actions or by my inaction. I boast by my unwillingness which is only unwillingness because of the pride I have which makes me feel that I have more choices than I probably actually would have if I weren't so full of pride. One might think these other things that seem so important, are the most important thing the way I/we tend to rate these other things in importance by my/our behavior. The most important point in life is free, it is a gift so that no one can boast, but I/we exclude people on the basis of things which are not important. I/we don't brag about my/our salvation because it is a gift. But my intellect, my behavior, my physical stamina, my health, my good looks (if I had them) are of course not a gift, so those things can be the basis of differentiation amongst people.

I see myself through such a strange perspective. If I see God through a glass darkly, I see myself through a brick wall. We chuckle at the pride of others when we see it, because we see others the way they really are as compared to the way they think they are, we think. We also think we see ourselves clearly. I think that if it weren't for God in his mercy protecting me from seeing myself as I really am, I would be stymied to the point of being totally incapacitated by my pride, my sin, my self-centeredness my total disregard of God's purposes. But instead, he allows me to live on in some fairyland of totally unsupportable ideas of who I am. Particularly who I am in comparison to others around me, and particularly in comparison to those who I see as below me, not worthy of my time or effort. Those who are "not a priority for ministry at this time," as I have heard too many times from Christian church leadership. What does it mean if a person or a group of persons is not a priority for ministry at this time? It seems to obviously imply that I, in my pride, can determine who is worth the effort (see Sept 28 entry), and unfortunately, for too long persons with cogntive disabilities have not been worth my/our effort.

Can you see how this is a problem of pride? Pride in individuals like me and pride in the church as a whole?

But there is something that I can boast about with total confidence. That is that God loves me, the way I am, full of myself and my importance. But God loves my friend with disabilities the way he is, full of himself and full of his importance. I wish I loved my friend like God loves me and my friend the same. I wish I believed in the importance of my friend with disablities like God believes in the importance of me and my friend the same. I wish I could be willing to give my life for my friend with disabilities like God gave his life for me and my friend the same. I wish my behavior reflected the principles of equality that I say I believe in. I wish my behavior reflected the importance of all people before the cross the way that I say I believe in the importance of all people. I wish my thoughts about myself and my friends with disabilities reflected the thoughts of God about me and my friends with disabilities being both the same.



Anonymous said...

Cuauhtemoc Figueroa
Edu 541
Wednesdays 7-9:30

Pride is nothing to be ashamed of. Who would not be proud of their station in life when it affords them weatlh, opportunity, access to privilege, or gives them a voice in society...especially when an individual works hard for all they have gained? I for one am proud of the accomplishments I have made throughout my life. I consider myself a well educated, intelligent individual. Did these things come naturally? Quite possibly genetics may have played a part, but more than anything else it was the time I spent studying, reading, reviewing, and seeking alternative solutions to various problems or challenges.

However, I have been able to accomplish these goals due to the vast network of support that I have. It would be foolish to believe I did this all on my own. It would be equally foolish to believe that material gain is the only reward of my hard work. This is the point at which pride becomes detrimental and often times ugly. If you are not willing to share what you have with those that don't have the means or opportunity to make such gains, then your work is futile.

I am proud of my accomplishments. I am even more proud that my accomlishments have afforded me the opportunity to help others. I am proud that I have two beautiful sons that know what it means to be compassionate, caring, kind individuals. I am proud that I have a beautiful wife that has supported me in all I have done and still been able to accomplish so much in her own right.

Some may be offended at reading this and consider me arrogant, even pompous. Some may even consider it un-Christian. However, I have never used my sense of pride to belittle anyone. Not a single person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level, nationality, or religion. The same cannot be said about the Church. Historically, the Church's track record isn't so great. This may be a reason that I do not actively participate or associate with any congregation or religion for that matter.

In regards to individuals with cognitive differences or disabilities I understand that I am at a higher level cognitively, but not as far as humanity--or "humanness"--we are all the same becasue we are ultimately all human. Now knowing that some people do not and can not operate or function at the same level as others is not a matter of pride. However when this understanding is used to take advantage of or hurt individuals with disabilities (or any individual for taht matter) than it is. Using a perceived "superiority"--negative perception of pride--is never right when it is carried out in such an abusive and callous manner. The differentiation is quite significant.

Is there more I can do to reach out to the disabled community? Of course there is! But there is so much more I can do for my community and those surrounding me in general. Ultimately the most significant contribution we can make as humans is to be kind, forgiving, understanding, loving, compassionate individuals. Some consider that being Christian...I consider it being human.

Anonymous said...

C. Bissegger
EDU 541 Wed.7-9:30

It sounds like this person is loaded with pride. Most people are proud and people have a right to be. People can be proud of their heritage. People can be proud of reaching personal goals that they may have set for themselves. People can be proud for hard work,studying,and maybe even going through their own suffering to get to what it is they are trying to achieve. The difference for me is that I am proud and grateful. I am grateful to have had parents that cared. I am grateful for my sisters and brothers who had me tag along when I knew they did not want their little sister around. I am grateful for my husband, my children for that they are healthy and good kids. Not a day goes by and I tell them how lucky they are because there are so many that have no parent around or a car to take them places to see and learn about. For me, to be proud is to set an example for my children which is not by words but by actions. We have helped out at Second Harvest and Settlement House for years with canned items. We have helped serve people who have nothing to eat a hot meal. We would take one of our neighbors who could no longer drive to church for almost eight years to Saturday evening mass. She past away in April but she was like a second grandma to my kids.They learned alot from her...
I feel as though we raised our children with a strong value system and with respect to all. That I am very proud of. It is not right to say how much better one is to those that are disabled. They did not ask to be blind or deaf or not able to walk. We, those that are blessed with health and cognitive capabilities, are really the ones who can act like we have no sight, no hearing, and not able to extend a helping hand. That is nothing to be proud of. We should open our eyes and see that we are all equal and no one is any better than anyone else. So take pride in helping those who need help. Christmas will be here soon and it is said that it is better to give than receive. I know this and so does my family. That is something to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

Cara Scrivens
EDU 341
Mondays 6p - 10:30pm

I have a sense of self-shame when I think of all I have done to be involved in the church--very little. As far as my life accomplishments I often feel like I am barely holding on. In a strange way I feel that it is my pride that keeps me going. It was my pride that had me ignore my father and marry a man that was not good for me, my pride that had me join the army when I should have gone to college. Now it is my pride, the inability to fail in another's eyes that keeps me going. The desire to say that is was circumstance rather than choice that placed me where I am at today (a single mother, struggling to make it and go to school full-time). So, I guess pride does have its ramifications as well as its positive indications.

Sadly enough I think that it is pride which keeps people from actively reaching out to people with disabilities...personally, I have always loved to reach out to this specific population. However, I see the looks I get when I go out with my "special" friends and I can only imagine that this would be enough to prevent the average person from participating. One time I took some of these friends to church and one of the ladies grew very upset and began to pull the hair of another church-goer. While I will say this is sad...I was utterly shocked when the pastor requested that we no longer attend the church. It was then that I had to stop and reaize what a sad state people are in...it just doesn't make sense.