Fear is always a killer. It doesn’t always look like ugly cowardly fear. Sometimes it looks like un-forgiveness – when we don’t want to forgive because it may just happen again. Sometimes it looks like entitlement – when we want to hold back for ourselves just in case our partner disappoints. Sometimes it looks like pride – when we think we’re better off on our own. Whatever it is, fear and love are like oil and water. If you want to hold on to your fears you’ll end up with your fears. If you want love, you have to be brave.
– Thoughts On Love On the Eve of Valentines
So now I have a girlfriend…
Don’t ask me how it started. As Mr. Darcy said, “I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.” When something becomes precious to you, or someone, you start thinking about how to protect it and secure it from threats. So I did what any rational guy would do and did a quick mental SWOT. Here’s what I came up with: The biggest strength is love, the most obvious weakness at the start is learning to understand each other, in other words communication, the greatest opportunity is earning each other’s trust, and the greatest threat is pride – my pride to be specific.
So I realized that if I want to make this work, I have to work on defeating my pride.
That’s really tough. Especially since I’ve spent pretty much my whole life practicing how to be proud and doing my utmost best to attain personal success and respectability which can lead to pride as well.
Pride is what makes me want to always be right. Pride is what makes me never want to admit my mistakes. Pride is what makes me claim what I think is my due. Pride is what makes me withhold what I think others don’t deserve. Pride inflates my importance and deflates the worth of others. Pride traps me in unforgiveness. Pride makes me think I’m better and that she’s lucky to have me. Pride prevents me from appreciating her and realizing how amazing she is. Pride keeps me from accepting correction and so keeps me from learning. Pride keeps me from confronting and so keeps me from cultivating.
But like I said, I’ve had a lot of practice with pride.
I’ve had a lot of practice sharpening my logic to win debates – missing that the point of intelligence is not mental superiority but to bring understanding to demystify the complex lives of others. I’ve had a lot of practice disciplining my life into efficiency – missing that the point of discipline is become a steward of God, in other words someone who successfully grows what he’s been given to love others better. I’ve had a lot of practice being able to date every girl I’ve wanted to date yet being able to move on feeling “better than ever”, so I would tell myself, which is quite true because I do make an incredibly productive single guy.
It’s easy to be impressive when majority of your attention, time, money, and energy go to improving yourself.
It’s also easy to be proud when your soul doesn’t have to face the mirror of another soul so closely.
Being humble is difficult. It’s incredibly difficult to be and impossible to achieve. Once we think we’ve achieved humility we undo whatever level of humility we’ve achieved.
But it’s incredibly necessary.
So one of the most necessary things we need for our relationships to work is also something impossible to achieve, so what do we do?
Here’s what I’ve learned: Humility is not an achievement. It is a virtue we live out when we surrender to something greater, more important. This is why the seed of the virtue of humility is love, finding something so beautiful, more beautiful than ourselves. This is why the act of humility is not passivity, shyness, inferiority, stillness, but worship and devotion, an ascribing of greater value to that which we have surrendered to.
We are naturally humbled by the greatness we surrender to.
Yet we’re stupid and surrender to faux greatness. The actor, the singer, the pretty face, the intellectual, the preacher, the governor, the artist, the billionaire. We surrender to them because we value what they have achieved, and because they have achieved more of these things, we think they’re great.
I’m guilty of this.
But sitting here, thinking about how satisfying it is just to sit beside Yasmin (that’s her name) while I type this blog, I ask myself, “How can I value other things more than this? How come it’s easy for me to be humbled by financial greatness and not humbled by love?”
Once again it’s pride, pride born out of a lifetime of valuing money, and achievement, and honor, and contributions, more than the beauty and vulnerability of transformative love.
Maybe this is why half of our marriages end in separation (and maybe more if we stop hiding behind religious crutches). Maybe we’ve emphasized too much on the wedding, the romance, the butterflies, and not enough on the necessary humbling.
It’s a thought. I’m no expert.
I just know that if I ever have a daughter, I’ll be sure to tell her, “Don’t marry a proud man. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re lucky to be with a proud man. These people are idiots.” And I’ll tell my son, “Don’t marry a proud woman. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re lucky to be with a proud woman. These people are idiots.”
I’ve seen a ton of articles online on the kind of guy/girl one should marry, most talking about the kind of person “you deserve”. This idea of “deserving” another human being, particularly the kind we think we deserve, seems to be popular.
But I submit an alternative. Instead, be with someone who walks humbly before God.
Someone who loves God so much and daily worships Him, because though he or she is imperfect, like all of us, he will surrender to transformative love, and can only become better.
Now if I want my kids to be attracted to someone like that someday, if I want my kids to be someone like that someday, I need to be that man today.
I have a long way to go.
At least I know where to head towards.
And no matter how this turns out, for nothing is truly sure after all, if I choose humility, I should be fine, because God exalts the humble.