Defined by dignity or pride?


My Sweet Al came home from the doctor’s office distraught. “I can’t believe Mayor Abigail wouldn’t take a plea bargain and has now been replaced.”
“Who is Mayor Abigail? What plea bargain? Replaced?”
“The woman on TV who got her daughters in to college.”
It took me a few minutes to process what he had said. “Al, get a grip! You are spending too much time in the doctor’s office reading gossip magazines. Besides, Mayor Abigail on your favorite TV show is not the same person you are hearing about on the news.”
My Sweet Al’s favorite television series is “When Calls the Heart.” He follows the show so closely that he followed the plot of one of the actresses right through to the evening news.
Apparently, the heart was called, won’t bend, won’t repent and can’t see itself guilty. I’d be shaking in my boots and falling on my face before God if I were in the mayor’s real shoes. According to the gossip magazine Al had read earlier in the day, the producers of “Heart” have already dismissed the actress.
My own teachable moments have taught me that if you hang on to your pride, you will lose your dignity. One of the Hollywood actresses in the current university admissions scandal may just be the perfect example of a person who can’t let go of her pride. We see it all the time. Successful men fall, great churches go dark, and friends and family members sever all ties.
It is impossible to take away a person’s pride. Try and a person will defend themselves with more pride. According to Job in the Bible, God spoke to him and asked if a man can look on everyone who is proud and humble him — if you can, then your own right hand can save you. We have known since the time of creation that no man can save himself.
I get it. We hold ourselves to a standard and then build ourselves up when we fall below a certain line. It starts with self-preservation of reputation, then the reimaging of the persona we present to others.
A character in an 18th century novel by writer Samuel Johnson said it best: “Pride is seldom delicate; it will please itself with very mean advantages.” I am not judging, but it begs the question, is that what happened to Aunt Becky?
There is a difference between pride and dignity. Pride is clinging to a haughty, boastful self-view that may even sign autographs on the way to a courtroom. Our sense of identity is who we create ourselves to be rather than who we are.
Dignity is that expression of who we are. It’s not about our social status or our personal assets or achievements. Dignity is a state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect.
What a perfect example of irony. A person who acts squeaky-clean, but refuses to bow her heart for mercy when actions are anything but. Reality check. It’s not about how we act, but who we are at our core.
My Sweet Al can’t grasp the fact that his beloved Hallmark character may spend years in prison. He comments about it every time he hears a newscaster talk about her “other” story line. “The next time we see her it will be in ‘The Walking Dead.’”
Final brushstroke: It can be difficult to separate “real-life” from the one portrayed, especially when a pedestal made of pride is involved. I’ve never thought there was anything wrong with climbing to the top, but may find we are on a slippery surface if we are not mindful. While I don’t believe that God pushes us off, we can be thankful that he has a way of comforting us when we fall because of our own undoing.
Readers’ comments
From M. Metcalf regarding “Borrowed beauty,” published April 14, 2019. “This is so very provocative … in that it reveals to me my own narrow eyesight, and provokes me to examine my heart, to root out my own tendency to judge only by what I see.”
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