Pride Goes before the Fall

Apparently, that’s not the exact quote, though it is the one that popped into my mind this afternoon. The original quote is this: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18, New International Version. So it appears as though I abbreviated the verse while keeping some essence of the meaning behind those words.

And why would that idea come to me? Well in the last many days I have had several opportunities to not only be humbled (external force applied toward me) but also to feel humility through the lens of the judgment made of me by another (an internal choice exercised by me).

Many times we are put into situations where someone assesses our actions to be not in keeping with expectations. Conversely, many times we ourselves pass judgment on the behavior of others when we believe they have failed to conform to our expectations. Words like “shameful,” “embarrassing,” and “inappropriate” are attached, usually without much reflection, to the perceived wrong-doer by the quick-to-label, ostensibly morally superior judge.

While most would rather judge than be judged, I would argue that neither role is desirable as both require a power differential which seems to turn on the ever infallible human perception.

But there is an option out of this dilemma. . .

With openheartedness, one can cultivate the skill to make an external/internal distinction within the realm of humility so that instead of assigning blame, the judge offers the space for the “wrong-doer” to take on the burden of self-reflection and authentically feel humbled.

When we believe that there is going to be a particular outcome–like in an election or in any other “group” decision–we are expressing “pride.” There is no certainty in these arenas and to trust that any one end point is going to be the only end point leads to “destruction,” i.e., a feeling that the world one “knows” is actually an unknowable place. This “haughy spirit” inevitably “falls” and, as the plummet occurs, confusion and dismay build alongside the prideful notion that lead to the crash itself.

If internally we take the time to accept responsibility for our actions–independent of what was socially expected and wholly apart from community perceptions of what “ought to be done”–than our inner compass is the thing which guides us to own up to our wrong-doing, apologize for our actions, and endeavor to learn from the mistake that brought the matter to the fore.

While many would assert that by one’s midlife there ought to have already been a complete and meaningful actualization of one’s beliefs and ethics that shape one’s behavior, I am of the opinion that there is no glory in claiming that one’s spiritual evolution is “done” and concluded that there can be no further improvement.

Humility teaches me that there is always better to be done and seen and lived and that there is a lot of time left to do and see and live.


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