In my last post I discussed how I felt shame because of the loss of my wedding ring. It lasted about 24 hours and was traumatic for me. For that reason I’ve taken some time to consider what was going on emotionally within.
Looking back at my life I can see many times when I’ve experienced shame. I’ve also experienced embarrassment which is related. Most often my embarrassment was related to my parents. If that sounds odd, let me explain.
Neither of my parents was very interested in maintaining the status quo and we lived in a small Texas town. (Hmmm, how do I say this nicely?) And in most small towns there is a strong sense of community that enforces certain behaviors.
As a child I recognized that my parent’s choices often drew criticism from others. That criticism made me wonder if there was something wrong with my family.
I remember my dad winning the annual “ugliest beard” award in a local contest. He thought it was hilarious and laughed it off but I felt embarrassed by it. I wondered if others were secretly laughing at him behind his back and that made me uncomfortable.
Another embarrassment for me was our home. We owned an old plantation-style home on one of the main streets of a small town. At one time it had been a showplace, owned by one of the town’s well-known families. In the late 1960’s, my parents purchased it with the intent of fixing it up again.
Everyone in the community was excited and was pulling for them to make this happen, but it never did. Instead they piddled around, fixed a few things here and there and left much of the house in complete disrepair.
As children, we don’t have any control over what our parents do or don’t do but we have some sense of responsibility for how others react. I think that’s why it is hard for children to separate their parent’s choices from their own. Most children of divorce have a time where they feel that they are to blame, in some measure, for the divorce. That’s not rational but our minds play tricks on us.
Likewise, children naturally want to believe their parents are good and right. That’s not always true. When that’s not the case, it creates confusion.
In my experience, I derived much of my early self-image from my parents. When my parents were praised or well-regarded I felt like my self-image was improved. The opposite was also true. When my parents were not well-regarded, I found myself feeling like an outcast. Throughout this process, I don’t think this registered with my parents.
All of this was in my background and I can testify that I came out of this situation with a chip on my shoulder toward others, in my town, and a growing sense of shame. The shame wasn’t continual but on occasion it would manifest and I would feel a sense of worthlessness and despair wash over me.
This brings me back to the recent episode where I lost my wedding ring and the emotional drama I felt inside afterward. It was hard but the good thing was that I realized something that I hadn’t seen before. And I believe this insight was God-given because I wasn’t looking for it and it was clearly something I needed to see.
That insight was that behind my shame was hidden pride.
That was a surprise. Pride?
That wasn’t anything I had considered before. My assumption was that my shame came from feeling worthless and I needed to address that. But maybe that wasn’t the case. If pride was hiding behind my shame, that would change how I responded.
After all, everyone knows that pride is bad. It always makes the top of the list of sins.So how do I explain this? How did I see pride was working in me when I lost the ring.
When I lost the ring, I had hidden expectations that were at work in the situation. Those expectations were that I could have been more careful and that I had the ability to never lose a ring, particularly my wedding ring. That expectation was unreasonable and was based on my pride.
My pride was saying “Rob, for you to make this mistake is unbelievable. I thought you were perfect in this area. You’ve had this ring for 35 years. How could you do this?”
What surprised me was how easily my pride had hidden. It was easy to see the shame, but the pride was more subtle. Pride hides inside. Or at least it likes to masquerade as something else more benign. In this case my pride created an unrealistic expectation which lead to my anger at myself and a sense of shame.
If I hadn’t had this hidden pride, I would have just mourned the loss of the ring, accepted my imperfect behavior and moved forward. As my wife pointed out, there are lots of husbands who have lost their wedding rings. This wasn’t that unusual to her. It was sad to lose something valuable but not beyond belief.
So, with this new realization my hope is to be more aware of the pride inside that hides. To be quicker to see it and quicker to confess it. And to be thankful for the Holy Spirit’s insight that made me aware.
But he gives more grace, Therefore it says , “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”– James 4:6
God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.
– D. L. Moody
I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.
– D.L. Moody
As our pride pours contempt upon God’s glory, His righteousness obliges Him to pour wrath upon our pride.
– John Piper
- Do you believe that shame always has an element of pride within it?
- What was something in your life that you still grieve the loss of?
- When was the last time you saw pride in your life?
- Do you find pride hiding in your life or being more obvious?