I’m racing to the basement computer immediately after listening to this to write something I think should follow my last post, which I hope showed, more than anything, the process of finding out the depth of pride in my own heart.
Lately I have been going back about 20 years to try to see more clearly a fundamental way I misunderstood the world that has carried forward to the present day. Well, and because in this season (the isolation of early motherhood and having recently moved to a new state) I find myself re-living a lot of the feelings of loneliness I had then. I also find myself STILL GOING BACK to the same thought patterns and fantasies of achieving my “dreams” and experiencing romance I did then and let me tell you: it’s not so cute or harmless as it seemed when I was 15.
So I pulled out my box of old journals and re-read a couple of them from 1997-98. I have had a few people cringe when I told them I did that. Not for me, but to imagine themselves doing it. Or maybe it was for me. Anyway, I wanted to see if I could tell what my life was actually like, since I described it in such glowing terms. I also thought it would be helpful to read the words I wrote about my internal state. To a great extent, as I wrote before, I had carried that self with me into my 34th year and only lately have started to tell the true story of my life.
I found a few things there and ALL of them had to do with pride. The last one I will mention is the most “current” and I want to make sure I talk about it. The first two, though, had to do with what was going on in my head all the time about myself and about God.
#1 – As I’ve written about extensively in my last post, I wanted with all my heart to be perfect and successful and as part of that, to gain the love of someone I saw as also perfect and successful. I consequently had a lot of negative feelings about myself because I didn’t have – and didn’t really believe that I would have – those things.
But concurrently, I discovered, I – really, truly, with all my heart – believed that if any boy (whom I deemed worthy) really got to know me, he would fall in love with me and that that process would finally make me feel fulfilled and happy. In addition to what was written about my obsession with Hanson (not much was written, but I am me, so I could read between the lines. It’s actually very touching how often I wrote down prayers for the Hanson brothers and their family), I was concerned with how much attention I was getting or not getting from a select few boys of my acquaintance in youth group. I think I’ve finally answered the burning question of my youth about why I didn’t receive much attention. It wasn’t because I wasn’t pretty enough or talented enough – as I feared. And it wasn’t – as I wanted to believe – that they were intimidated by me; at least not in a good way. They were not overawed by me. They were turned off by me because of my pride. I was simultaneously afraid of being embarrassed by saying or doing the wrong thing (ironically, it would often happen that the very moment I decided it was safe to tell a joke I would say something truly embarrassing and horrible) and too proud to value the attention and friendship I did have as it ought to have been valued. There were some wonderfully talented young men who liked me. Apparently, they just weren’t good enough for me. Also, I had friends who were telling me the truth in love but I just couldn’t see it.
There was a terrific conversation with the afforementioned Mark Olson in there that I’d forgotten about completely. On a car ride he was asking me about why I didn’t date. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to date because my parents were sort of dabbling in the courtship movement. I know, because I remember my rebellious thoughts on the subject, that I was not into it. I was all for dating. But I sat there and argued courtship to Mark Olson like it was my personal holy grail rather than tell him ugly truth that I wasn’t dating because no one I liked had asked. Well, to my credit I did admit it at the very end. But only after I’d made it perfectly clear that I “didn’t want a boyfriend anyway” to the boy I’d been hoping would like me back, and ask me out, for years. I remember the utter elation and the abject fear that he might see and know I liked him. I panicked and reacted in pride. It was my default.
#2 – The other thing in there was so much talk to God about my own “worthlessness” and how I knew that I would just hate me if I was God and if He didn’t love me so much He would hate me. It almost doesn’t need to be fleshed out, but obviously, this isn’t the gospel. It’s also obvious that it was another reaction of pride. I wanted to earn my salvation, knew I couldn’t, and was in prideful despair over it all the time. And I was the one responsible for thinking this. I have liked, in the past, to think that my church did it, or my parents did it. I may have been mislead by some things but ultimately…
#3 – Here’s the main thing I wanted to say. When I described my life outside my own mind as harsh, dark, sad and silent I knew I was not being accurate so much as trying to reflect my memory of how life felt. What I forgot was that I was taken to piano and voice lessons in addition to youth group and church every week, that I had a job at the gym where my sister practiced competitive gymnastics and that I did several other fun trips and classes throughout the year. That I, to this day, couldn’t even remember those things says a lot about me. In my own healing journey, I have both blamed my parents for things out of their control and rightly seen things they did that were wrong and hurt me. It’s so easy, once you see more clearly what you needed and didn’t get, to stop there. But you will never be healed, not really, until you are healed of your pride. Here’s what I have failed to see in the past: it’s important to have nurturing parents (and don’t think that I’m trying to say I didn’t. I did.) but I didn’t deserve nurturing parents. This one is really hard, I know that. We’ve all been hurt by our parents. My own parents were hurt terribly by theirs. But it’s never been more clear to me: If I can’t see what they did give, and do give, as a gift I will never experience joy. And I won’t be able to see anything as a gift if I believe to my core that I shouldn’t have to experience pain and suffering, that I deserve anything other than the judgement that was taken for me by Christ.
In other words, I made an idolatry of pride itself. It didn’t, it couldn’t, result in feelings of superiority because I knew that I had failed to gain the attention of a “worthy” boy, I had failed to hone my musical skill and become famous like the Hanson brothers and I had failed to live up to my internal religious standards. An overblown ego doesn’t look the way I always thought it should. It actually looks like the kind of blindness, excessive whining, blaming of other people (like my parents) and depression I saw in my old journal and see in my behavior every day.
I’ve often heard, and rejected, the idea that depression and pride go hand in hand, but there it is. It’s plain to see.
My mom came and visited us recently. I posted something on Facebook about it and you know how I knew something was different with me? I don’t know if I’ve really done that before. I didn’t just know I should be grateful for her love and help and I didn’t just feel good about it for a little bit; I felt filled up with gratitude. For my mom. As a person. And, as great as she is, it’s not because she’s gotten so much better at being helpful. It’s that I hadn’t been able to see it. The problem truly had been with me. It doesn’t mean we don’t or haven’t hurt each other. It means, in the only way that truly matters, we are both off the hook. And that makes us free to accept what the other has to give. So many times in the past I have looked at the exact – or near enough – offering she’s given and said it wasn’t enough. By the grace of God (I hope, in removing some foundational layer of my pride), I could take the exact same amount and be filled to overflowing by it. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.