Pride, as a word, had been a source of contemplation for a few weeks before August. Then, the word started popping up in unexpected places. It happened during a late-night shopping session when I glanced at one of the community newspapers on my way to my car. My eye caught the front page about an indigenous play, and written in the corner, almost as an afterthought, was the tag line, “Because pride always comes to a fall.”
Was this a warning to me? Why did it stand out like that? Am I (gasp!) proud? Then the August topic was announced, and I thought, “Nope, not putting my hand up for this one!” You know how we want to avoid things that make us a bit uncomfortable? Or something that we think we need to deal with but don’t want to? Yep, that was me.
Hubris sets loose the wrath of the gods
Enter the word hubris. This word awoke the interpreter in me. So for the past two weeks, in preparation for this piece, I mind mapped the word HUBRIS on an A3 piece of paper during my so-early-we-see-the-sun-rise writing dates with my friend Su.
Pride was not a problem for the Ancient Greeks. Hubris, however, was. They did not mind you thinking that you were the best at something, but when you took that pride to a level where you purposefully humiliated another for the sake of general gratification, they saw that as hubris, and that would call the wrath of the gods down on you. Hubris is when you are overconfident, and you stupidly overstep the boundaries of human limitations.
Self humilitaion is also hubris
Hubris, that arrogant pride, has nothing to do with a healthy self-image, but everything with how much your words and actions are designed to embarrass another, or wait for it – even yourself! And there was the lesson that I had to learn.
One day, when you meet me in person, you will see that I am a fuller figure girl. And most days, I can embrace the full voluptuousness that is me, but sometimes, I will throw in a comment and purposefully humiliate myself in a conversation. This is because subconsciously, I think I am pre-empting what people think, and by talking down on myself, I assume that I am in some way taking power away from them to do it to me. (I acknowledge that I am dealing with my own biases here. I am a work in progress.)
What is the opposite of hubris?
Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that self-humiliation equates to humility, and it does not. I should also not feel that I have to apologise for feeling pride in my work or who I am. Could it be that I was secretly scared I would be seen as arrogant when I embraced and liked all of myself?
And so another term enters this conversation: MEEKNESS/SELF WORTH
Where hubris is being so full of yourself that you are a pain in the backside, meekness is that gentleness of being grounded in who you are and going on about your business quietly and humbly because you understand your authentic identity and your redeemed innocence. Meekness is all about being yourself and allowing and helping others to see their worth.
In the parable of the ten minas, in Luke 19, we are introduced to two types of people – one type who saw their self-worth, and one type who allowed fear to blur their vision and veil their personal value, so the little self-respect that they have is displaced by self-hate and failure.
Don’t play small
This story reminded me of a quote that I love. It is from the book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A course in Miracles” written by Marianne Williamson.
She writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That, to me, is meekness.
Instead of humiliating yourself or others today, embrace your power. Let your light shine! Be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. Manifest the glory of God that is within you. You shining your light (just as Moses’s face shone whenever he had conversations with God) will permit others to shine as well. As you accept the freedom that is yours, you may just be helping another be set free.