Love is the antidote to the pride cycle

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I recently read Brene Brown's book I Thought It Was Just Me. I had listened to her TED talk online and the title on the library shelf called to me. It was an eye-opening look into her research on shame. She shared many anecdotal experiences from her studies and personal life to showcase the different faces of shame and how it presents in marriage, careers, friendships, parenting, and basically all facets of interpersonal relationships.

It was a week after finishing her book that I saw that the next lesson being taught in church was on pride. I had some free time the night before and decided on a very strange whim to study the lesson.
The lesson was on a conference talk given by a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson. In his speech, he warns church members against the dangers of pride. The three things that he says defines pride are "hatred, hostility toward, and opposition to God or fellow man." The lesson breaks it down further to highlight all the ways pride can present itself.
Pride is such a sneaky, silent sin. In my study, I started creating a table of pride vs. humility. "What does pride look like, sound like, act like?" I wondered the same about humility. I searched my scriptures and started writing down all the references I could find.
I was so consumed in my compare-contrast brainwave that, had I not had Brene Brown's book still laying fresh on my mental examination table, I would have missed a very eye-opening  verse.
Proverbs 11:2 says
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
In my mind I was thinking "Wait! There is something here! There is pride. There is shame. It looks like they go together."
A little jolt of excitement and understanding zapped me. Suddenly, I saw the whole picture. If shame is as widespread as Brene Brown's research data shows its safe to say that everyone has or will experience it at some point. Brown defines shame as "the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." It makes sense then that if shame has been experienced, it leaves a sense of want of love and belonging. Shame creates a hole inside that begs to be filled with something - anything.
Introspection ensued. What fills my empty places created by shame? What are my true motives behind my every action?
I want to belong. How badly do I want to belong that I believe that I belong above someone else? I want to be loved. How much do I need that love that I believe I am loved more than the next person? I want to be more. I don't want to be less. If I am less it means there is something about me that is flawed and unworthy. That shame creates a deeper need for love and acceptance. The deeper the shame, the bigger the pride to make up for the deficit.
Shame is silent and pervasive. I think that is what makes pride such a difficult thing to acknowledge and talk about. The more I thought about it, I realized that I have pride because I have shame, and I am ashamed that I have pride.
Pride and shame create separation. Pride puts us above others, thinking we are better, justified in our hatred and hostility, higher in purpose and deserving of recognition. Shame keeps us isolated, convinced of unworthiness because of who we are as a person. It is a cycle of highs and lows and each feeds the other. Shame and pride separate us from our friends, family, community, and God. I think Satan would call that a win.
The antidote to pride is humility. The solution to shame is connection. This is where the bigger picture presents itself.
Nearly all the scriptural references I found relating to humility included some sense of connection and togetherness.
Humility teaches:
  • goodness is available to all, none are forbidden (2 Nephi 26:28)
  • all men are privileged the one like unto the other (2 Nephi 26:28)
  • to have charity (2 Nephi 26:30)
  • to work for the good of all (2 Nephi 26: 31)
  • to invite (2 Nephi 26:33)
  • to deny none (2 Nephi 26:33)
  • to lift others
  • to ask for what you need (Alma 7:23)
  • to give thanks (Alma 7:23)
Humility is inclusion. It is togetherness, of being part of a relationship with someone else. It is a sense of belonging, of sameness and collective elevation.There is no humility alone. The ability to develop and define humility depends on learning to love others.
What became very apparent to me while studying this is the way God works directly against pride and shame. God provides all the connection we need to defeat pride and shame. The scriptures are littered with countless assurances of God's love for his children, our place with him, and the lengths to which he will go to ensure that we can feel that love always.
Pride is created by shame. The solution to shame is connection. Connection brings humility. Humility defeats pride. To be humble is to reinforce the first, most precious and sacred connection to the Divine in self and others.  This is how the cycle is broken - by the warmth and confidence in the thread that runs through and connects us all to Love.
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