Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Selfish Pride

My son says he doesn't like people who are show-offs. I get what he's saying. In my teen years, I was inexplicably drawn to people who were, in fact, show-offs. The guy who was voted best looking in our class. The kids who were good at sports and knew it, the ones who seemed to have everything going for them--except for being genuinely kind--but as an adult, I've almost come to an complete 180-degree turn in my opinion of said "show-offs". I'll admit it on these pages. I don't like it.

I overheard a man--not a gentleman, but yes, a country-club bred, money-having, finery-wearing man--allude to his opinion that if people don't belong to a country club, then they weren't really people at all. It was a long time ago, and I don't remember who he was talking to (but it was pretty obvious who he was talking about), but I couldn't believe he had the boldness to speak his opinion out loud.

I shook my head in disgust. Really. Some thoughts need to stay right where they belong. In your head. 

But even as I write this, I'm taken back to a time when I was just out of college, working full-time, expecting a paycheck and a job title a lot bigger than the one I received: Teller. SunTrust Bank. I don't remember my exact salary, but it was somewhere around the $15,000 a year mark. A year.

Yay, me.

I mean, hello! I have a Psychology degree, people.

Clearly, SunTrust Bank does not care about Psychology degrees when one is applying for jobs.

So to try to make up for what I felt like was a complete failure and a lack of confidence and competence, I became the biggest show-off I could be. I showed off my new jewelry. I joined the Junior League. I showed off my new car. My clothes. I talked about everything I had to make up for what I thought I lacked. (The funny thing is I didn't have anything to actually show off.)

I was in a teller training class downtown with about 15 other men and women when I overheard a conversation about cars...

Fellow teller-in-training: ...blah, blah, blah...Dodge Durango...blah, blah, blah...

...and I was so eager to prove that I was more than, well, me, that I interrupted the conversation to interject "Are you talking about Dodge Durangos? My husband has one of those, they are so nice." I wasn't anxious to connect; I was anxious to prove. To prove that I was more, I was worth knowing; in short, that I was totally awesome. (Because totally awesome people have totally awesome husbands who drive Dodge Durangos. Duh.)

But the withering look that my compadre gave me was anything but friendly. To say she didn't appreciate my comment, and probably said something really nasty behind my back is an understatement.

I'll never forget that moment, because in all my pride, I also felt embarrassment, which made my whole showing-off attitude even worse.

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; 
which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; 
of which hardly any people...
ever imagine they are guilty of themselves...
it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; 
Pride leads to every other vice; 
It is the complete anti-God state of mind.
{c.s. lewis}

I can compare my former self to my present self and see that I've grown since my early post-college days, and I hope that I don't come off as trying so hard, but I can hardly get comfortable in my own skin, because as soon as I do, I am reminded that while my attitudes have changed, the pride still remains. It looks different. Nicer. Fair. A little more amiable. But that same superior attitude still surfaces, although it's not over cars anymore. (However, it would be hard not to be prideful if I drove my very hip self around in a hardtop convertible Lexus like the one I saw on TV the other day. This must be why I don't have one ;))

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, 
but the naive go on, 
and are punished for it. 
The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord 
are riches, honor and life. 
Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; 
He who guards himself will be far from them.
{proverbs 22:3-5}

The smart person identifies their temptation and avoids it altogether. The foolish one either can't see the trap or sees it and goes for it anyway, and is faced with the consequences of their actions. Can we just say I've been more than a little foolish in my lifetime? I've continued down the same path time after time, expecting a different outcome each time, and have fallen into the exact same hole, only to drag myself out, and take the same walk. Again.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
{albert einstein}

Could my own prideful self also be foolish by walking the same path over and over, thinking I will make (or force) a different outcome than the one I've already experienced? I do think I have it all under control--until I fall into the hole in the sidewalk again. Then I crawl out, planning to control the circumstances differently, to have a tighter handle on things, but never intending to take a different path. 

The fact is, I have grown over the years, but I've also learned that instead of identifying and avoiding a temptation altogether, it's much, much easier to just ignore it. That way, I don't have to acknowledge my flaws, and I can continue thinking that I have it all under control enough to continue down the same path without consulting God or His will in my life.

I think I can play with fire and not get burned. But the thorns and snags I've encountered because I have this attitude have burned me:
anxiety
depression
fear
worry
regret
guilt
more pride

So the very things I pray against, I am inviting into my life.

Insanity.

So if the same path leads to the same dark hole, what does my different path look life?

A quiet respect of God's will for my life.

A faith in God, and not in myself.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, 
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
{c.s. lewis}

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