On the Corner
Look out how you use proud words. When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back. They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can't hear you calling - Look out how you use proud words.
– Carl Sandburg
It started in a very positive way – that word “proud.” It spoke of competence and valor – of goodness. But it degenerates before our eyes. It slides down icy slopes. The beauty and purity of its tone becomes stained with haughty disdain. It takes on airs of superiority. It makes one distant, unapproachable, patronizing.
The measure of our pride reveals the dimensions of our conceit. We make it evident with the words we use in describing ourselves, in the way we relate to others, in our need for admiration and unique status. It’s not easy to call proud words back. They wear long boots, which walk for a considerable length of time. They go a hefty distance. Long boots are not trivial. They are tall and have more length than breadth. The message of long-booted proud words spreads on an unpleasant wind through the landscape.
These words wear hard boots. In their impenetrable shells they share no feeling. No empathy escapes the rigid boundaries of pride whose words are often strong, sometimes bitter, invariably self-centered. Their product spreads with it a fog of fear – a shroud of intimidation. Proud words in hard boots protect the wearer from the vulnerability of real relationships.
Proud words can never build relationships. Their arrogance pushes away. They do not attract. They are filled with self-love rather than with love for the other. The content of their messages speaks of exaggerated achievementÑof inflated talent. They crave credit and demand recognition. They float on a shallow, stagnant pool of perceived specialness. Pride affirms only self – never others.
The tragedy of pride lies in its ignorance of humility. The puffed up only see lowly as low. They see meekness as weakness. They are blinded by their own ego needs and fail to perceive their powerlessness.
Humility is everything pride isn’t. It understands the errors of arrogance – the pressures of pretentiousness. It knows how to relate and quickly finds connections without any surrender of self. In fact, it discovers self in giving it away.
There is nothing insignificant about humility. It carries its assertion as a vindication of principle rather than a victory of self. The arrogant arrogate power. It is seized without merit often on the basis of assumed authority actually not granted within a position. Sometimes the assumption is based on title or rank.
Sometimes it is evident with wealth or name, and often the display of attending perquisites reveals the immensity of the pride. Sometimes it is the product of prejudice in which one’s skin color or national origin is flouted as indicators of worth. How tragic that we seem to need such protective shells to shield our fragile egos. How sad it is when we forget the honesty of childhood and, instead, impose on ourselves false roles of adulthood.
The young child, Christ, is straight and wise And asks questions of the old men, questions Found under running water for all children And found under the shadows thrown on still waters By tall trees looking downward, old and gnarled. Found in the eyes of children alone, untold, Singing a low song in the loneliness. And the young child, Christ, goes on asking And the old men answer nothing and only know love For the young child, Christ, straight and wise.