Pride goeth before a fall.
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.
Photo credit: Katherine Oliver Birkbeck
We have all had reasons to be proud.
We grow up, graduate high school, then maybe college, then maybe professional school. We learn a skill, a trade, a profession, gain experience and take it out in the big wide world and find that we are really proficient at something. Reason to be proud, no doubt.
We buy that car we’ve always wanted, or that house, or that boat. We’re proud when people comment on our physical possessions.
We take care of our bodies, age well, stay in shape, work out, wear nice clothes, get our hair done, wear shiny jewelry. We are proud of how we look.
We are proud of our work record, our involvement in our church, our community activities or our political dealings. We “run on our record” in so many ways as the years roll by.
I think Webster may have been thinking about all of these with that first definition above. We accomplish things, learn things, do things, possess things that help us respect ourselves, and then we expect that respect to be forthcoming from others. All well and good, within reasonable boundaries.
We cross over into that second definition when things get just a little out of hand. When we think that we are better then others, that we are more fortunate, that we deserve more, that we are more special than others, that we have a higher purpose or place then they do. This kind of pride can swell and fester and putrify and lead us to the brink of destruction, sometimes giving us that last little nudge, that gentle push, that sends us over the edge into the dark abyss of narcissism from which there is no voluntary turning back.
Now, I have made my fair share of mistakes.
Some of them have been tiny ones, almost unseen. Some have been known only to me and God. Some of them have been more public and visible and embarrassing. Some have been big, so big that I will rethink them from time to time, and probably will for the rest of my life.
My mistakes, collectively, may have diminished my ability to feel proud of myself sometimes.
However, nothing has shaken my pride in one thing, actually three people, who I love and care about very much.
My daughters have grown to be the kind of young women that I can truly be proud of.
They were all good children, no doubt, energetic and funny and creative and spunky and playful.
They all grew and branched out into different areas of interest, activities and circles of friends.
They all finished college, persevering through good times and bad to complete this milestone.
They now are blossoming even further as adults.
They teach little children (a job I hold in very high esteem, as they literally shape our future in their classrooms every day).
They give others the opportunity to grow and learn.
They sing, and dance, and act, and create.
They have pets!
They (or at least she, for now!) have children of their own, something that still amazes me every day.
They love and learn and live and they are making their marks upon this broken world, which gives me great hope that one day it will be whole again.
This kind of pride, this sense that my children are very special and wonderful and lovely and gifts to the world they live in, surely will go before a fall.
A fall in my hurt and disappointment in myself, because I know I have been a small part of creating three wonderful lives that matter.
A fall in my anxiety about the craziness of this world, because I know that the generation that follows mine is smart and strong and willing to figure it all out.
A fall in my constant sense of worry (if you are a parent, this needs no explanation), because I know that even though they don’t need me in quite the same way they always used to, they are fully capable of taking care of themselves.
Yes, this third kind of pride is marvelous.
It makes all the hurt and pain and doubt and fear fade into the background, and leaves room for nothing but bright hope and joy and celebration.
I love you, girls.