Little Sister Kathryn Ann told me she was praying for me, that I was filled with pride.
That struck me deeply. She had no idea what she was talking about. My entire life had been satiated with tormenting insecurities and self-hatred. How dare she judge me? She didn’t know me. To rise to the occasion, I forgave her. After all, she was Catholic and I was Protestant and she didn’t know better.
I had joined RCIA, the adult education classes for those inquiring about Catholicism--and I was there just to verify if what some of my Catholic friends were telling me--no more. The elderly old woman had been chosen for my sponsor and things didn’t start out well. I wasn’t especially grateful that this nun took time out of her extremely busy schedule as teacher to sit next to me in all the classes with her head bowed praying for me. I didn’t understand the point. And then to insult me? Yeah, I was so not impressed with Catholicism at that moment.
I had entered purgatory and my life would never be the same. And I am not talking about theology.
What I have been learning ever since is that as weird as it may seem, as counterintuitive, pride and self-hatred are mated together. Pride and insecurities feed off each other and are always found together for pride is parasitic.
Psychiatrists and counselors wouldn’t dare breathe the truth about the matter--if they are aware of it. Society recognizes the self-esteem catastrophe within our youth and have ingrained in all the teachers' training courses how to build children’s self-confidence. When, in the end, it is impossible to teach people to love themselves. They cannot do it.
As Christians, our response is that we can learn to love ourselves when we experience and know how much Christ loves us. But often, those words don’t plunge deep enough to repair us, for it is not just a head knowledge, but a heart knowledge that cannot be forced by mantras or worship.
I found worth in the strangest place. Totally unexpected.
We can’t get at at self-acceptance without going through the eye of the needle, or maybe I should say the fires of purgation.
The last two years, God has shown me that Sister Kathryn Ann was right. I have been full of pride. I wrestled with God over this one, for there hasn’t been a day in my life that I didn’t hurt dreadfully because I felt I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to try and impress everyone around me, for fear I would be lost in a cosmic nothingness. I had to dress nicely, put myself out there with singing and being involved, leading, accomplishing. All for fear that if I was quiet, I’d disappear.
Somehow with all this fear, pride slipped in and began leeching off this need to be noticed, this need to be pretty, this need to be better. The vampire of pride drains you and dehydrates you of true love for self and others and even God.
There is no self-help book or advice that is going to work. No classes, no Stuart Smalley mental repetitions of, "I'm good enough I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me," and no Zig Ziglar is going to repair the inherent sin of self-hatred. Humility is the only healer.
Catholicism has done a great deal to humiliate me. It hasn’t felt good to know that I have been wrong my whole life. Catholicism has forced me to my knees in confusion and brokenness. It has shown me that I have my place and I need to humbly submit to it. It has ripped away my self-confidence and shredded my feelings of control.
That isn’t easy.
But attached to all these subconscious and internal safeguards I was clinging to, was pride and the terror of self-doubts. Not to say they are totally healed as this is a process I am sure will take the rest of my life. But my insides have been gutted by God and a new person is emerging that I simply don’t recognize.
There is a rich, intense and mysterious peace that comes from humility. A security I had never expected.
For the first time in my life, I am letting compliments saturate me instead of flinging them off with pride. I believe and trust that others are telling me the truth, while before I thought so little of other’s opinions. My opinion was the only one worth trusting.... and I hated myself because I didn't look like Lana Turner and that was that.... I wasn't Heddy Lamar so I was nothing.
As counterintuitive as it appears, pride keeps one from feeling worthy. Self-confidence is a huge lie.
When we humbly submit to God and recognize that He is in charge--when we sacrifice our self-esteem and rights and understanding at the foot of the Cross---when we accept that He is ruler and Lord and we are but mere servants who obey Him, all of a sudden, the gift comes. The gift of grace that flows heavenly upon a soul parched from pride.
Instead of looking at women more beautiful than me and feeling defeated, unloved, I can now look upon them with such admiration. Beauty is a wonderful gift from God, even in other women. It was pride that made me hate them. Their beauty killed my self-esteem. Now, I can see the beauty in myself. God has shown it to me. And somehow through His eyes, I can see it!
Now, I don’t compare myself with others, I lavish and enjoy the gifts God has given them. I love that others are successful and smart. Their success, their intelligence doesn’t make me fear anymore.
I only write this because I know hundreds of young girls out there feel just as I have. I don’t want them to learn this when they are gray-haired. I want so badly to spare them years of heartbreaking searching for self-esteem and self-worth.
God is the answer. You must learn to let go of trying to be better, prettier, smarter, more successful than other people. Not just in praying for God to show you how great you are. You aren’t going to learn it through bucking yourself up. You will learn it through humility, through submissive obedience to God and the knowledge that He is the only opinion you can trust.
Prepare yourself. Wrenching pride and self-hatred from your soul is going to hurt. I'm sorry about that, but I can tell you when you are on the other side of humility--it is going to feel better than you can imagine. For it is only when the veil of pride is ablaze and we can see clearly the goodness of God, we can see ourselves. And that is going to shock and awe you.