Pride

Pride goeth before a fall. 


Pride:

: 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.

Merriam-Webster


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. 

Belonging

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I debated about whether or not to put this post on gregsmithmd-recharge.com or here. The main blog site won out, because I think the feeling of belonging, or the lack of it, is important to everybody and drives a lot of the pathology I see every day in clinical practice.

I went back to my hometown this past weekend to reconnect with some old friends. I also went back to be a small part of history. My alma mater, Berry College in Rome, Georgia, was fielding its first football team ever. This was the first game ever played on the gridiron by a school that only had intramural sports, soccer, tennis, basketball and various other sports teams when I was there from 1976 to 1979.

My friend and I got to the stadium downtown in what we thought was plenty of time to park, pick up tickets at the will call window, and get a good seat in the stands. Honestly, I expected a slim crowd, plenty of room to move about in the stadium and a mediocre showing by a young team that had never run on the field before. What I felt on arrival was so much different from what I had expected.

The crowd was tremendous. Lines everywhere to buy tickets, pick up tickets, and to get into the stadium itself. People milling about in Berry College branded t-shirts, hats, carrying pom poms, programs, and seat cushions, ready to watch some football. Inside was the same. Long concession stand lines that rivaled those of Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA, and countless other venues on a Saturday in the States. Excited kids, more excited adults acting like kids, and the ubiquitous group of painted college kids with fresh coats of silver and blue body paint, horned Viking hats and other props, ready to show their school spirit. The excitement was palpable, the air supercharged with institutional pride.

As we found our way into the stands and what had to be the only two seats left on that side of the field (the game was beyond sold out!), another surge of pride hit me. This was history in the making, sports history that was being documented by scores of still cameras and video cameras  and phones (including mine). This moment was being painstakingly recorded and would be seen by generations to come, those like me who would come back to “Old Berry tried and true” thirty, forty, or fifty years hence. These kids, like Martha Berry herself some hundred years ago, were trailblazers, and they knew it.

Another surprise at this game was the fact that the Model High School band, out of Shannon, Georgia, was the performing group for the halftime show. I played first trumpet and was section leader in that very band for years during my own high school career, marching in brutal heat like this and enjoying football games as a teenager in the seventies. I watched these kids in their bright blue and black uniforms, marching in what had to be hundred degree heat on the field, and felt another little surge of pride.  I had been there and done that. I was a part of this long blue line.

It’s normal and very healthy to want to be somebody, to belong, to be a significant part of a group.

I watched these kids on the field, the crazy adults in the stands, and the Berry administration in attendance, and I saw pride in an institution that a young woman in North Georgia started many decades ago to educate mountain children. I saw team spirit for a team that before that day had never run onto a field to play a single game. I saw excitement, hope, anticipation and folks just having good old-fashioned fun. I was so proud to be there that day, to be a part of the history of Berry College, a place where I grew up as a person and received an education that was a stepping stone towards what I do today. I owe the school a lot, and on this past Saturday, sitting in the stands in the broiling sun watching these kids pay their hearts out as Vikings, I could give just a little something back.

Oh yeah. The score.

We got pounded 37-0 by a much better Maryville Scots team.

Nobody cared.

At the end of that game, when the whole team joined hands on the sideline and sang the Berry College alma mater with the rest of the crowd in the stands, it was another defining moment in the long history and tradition of the school. Martha Berry started something magical in the north Georgia mountains that continues today. I think she would be in the stands cheering with the rest of us, and she would be very, very proud of “her boys” on that special day.

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