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FRONT PORCH: Removal of pride is necessary to experience mercy

PRIDE is a master of disguise. It cloaks itself in all manner of outlandish costumes, intending to mislead oneself and others. Its powers of obfuscation are immense. Pride is so clever, so insidious that it tricks and befuddles our truer selves like a distorting funhouse mirror at a carnival.

Our failings and patterns of sin are often so profound that they can leave us reeling, wounded, defeated, ashamed, hardened. Our compulsions, addictions, weaknesses, and pitfalls are lifelong companions that typically accompany us all the way to our final days.

The devastating mistakes we make often have enormous consequences, the pain of which is cancerous to others and ourselves, including our sense of self-worth and lovability. Ashamed and wounded, we pridefully are often incapable of allowing the light of mercy and forgiveness to cauterize, bind and heal our wounds.

We may carry the burden of guilt for years, decades, a lifetime, a form of self-flagellation. This is sometimes a manifestation of pride, a failure to remorsefully release our mistakes and to more fully recognize how loved we are by those who help to heal our wounds.

The gift of mercy is a gift of love. When we do not allow this gift and its myriad healing properties to fill our bloodstream and the very marrow of our lives, we are exhibiting the arrogance of pride.

How could I have been so weak, so foolish to make such and such a mistake? Because we are weak, fragile, vulnerable and complicated beings often driven by family history, psychological states, and a brain and sociobiology of which we are often not in control, none of which means that we should deny responsibility for actions or inactions.

But the mercy of God, of another, and self-mercy have the power to wrestle our pride to the ground, to lift us up off the floor, helping us back on our wobbly clay flat feet cojoined to certain Achilles’ heels, ready to fall again, and always in need of forgiveness, reconciliation and friendship.

When we are genuinely remorseful, penitential, and desirous for growth and change, mercy is better able to penetrate our defences and our spiritual pores and open spaces.

There is another form of pride which excels at preventing and blocking off mercy like a massive impervious dam prohibiting the flow of water. It is the pride of ignoring or denying one’s patterns of sin and pathologies, and pretending that we have not done harm to others.

Even Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I had a few.” Though he went on to say: “But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do.”

One imagines that Sinatra, the person, not the singer, may have had more than a few regrets and unmentionables precisely because he did a number of things “my way” and not the better way.

To be more fully human is to have genuine remorse for our self-absorption and failure to love more fully.

A friend recalls another, who constantly boasted that he had no regrets in life. It was comical, though sad, because the person who boasted of no regrets had done considerable harm to quite a number of people throughout his life but he had to breezily and endlessly pretend that he had not.

The acknowledgement of his hurt of others was too difficult for him to bear. So he anesthetised himself with all manner of excuses for his behaviour, and lies and denials, constantly repressing parts of his life, always pretending to be on top of the world, despite his secrets and secret pains, which most of us possess and carry for a lifetime.

The inability to admit one’s errors and patterns to another is one of the greatest forms of pride. We touch the divine if we are fortunate enough to have a spouse, partner, friend, relative, minister or another to whom we can disclose our true and fuller selves, and who loves and forgives us, repeatedly, in the midst of our brokenness.

Leonard Cohen’s Come Healing is a spiritual anthem of brokenness and invocation of mercy:

“O, gather up the brokenness

Bring it to me now

The fragrance of those promises

You never dared to vow

“The splinters that you carried

The cross you left behind

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind

“And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

“Behold the gates of mercy

In arbitrary space

And none of us deserving

Of cruelty or the grace

“O, solitude of longing

Where love has been confined

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind …”

Mercy is a virtue of mutuality; a wellspring of communion and liberation. Pride is the sworn conniving enemy of mercy.

How frequently do we refuse to take or receive or offer the cup of mercy. It oft takes many dry seasons and mustard seeds before we are receptive to the gentle rains or showers of mercy from heaven and from loved ones here on earth, a loving photosynthesis of healing waters and penetrating light.

We sometimes arrogantly believe that mercy is like a mighty favour which we can dispense from on high to those who have wronged us. But is not mercy more like a gift we mutually and simultaneously grant ourselves and others, as Shakespeare reminds us: “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Poet David O’ Haolin Whalen cautions us in, But for the Grace of God Go I:

“There, but for the grace of God go I …

Is a thought I oft used to think

As I cast a hasty, judgmental eye

Roundabout the coffee shop

And o’er the brim of my morning drink.

“… I used to judge those so-called ‘sorry souls’

And ascribe to them sad histories

In blissful ignorance that

Some were likely looking back

And doing the same to me …”

Mercy can make old eyes, habits and attitudes profoundly new; unsettling and refreshing the terra firma on which we live and move, daring to have our being. If we are fortunate, we grasp with new eyes, what has been at work since creation, and which unfolds and continues in our being and consciousness.

At the foot of the cross we meet fellow weak and loveable souls seeking, searching for mercy. Blessed by our falls and terrible mistakes, we are invited to become more merciful toward ourselves and others.

When we are open to and accept invitations of mercy, we upend and disarm the many disguises of pride, many of which try to seduce cum trick us into believing that we are well or good or better than others, though we may actually be spiritually numb or considerably unwell.

As has been said in another space: “The quality of mercy is many times borne from the trembling desire to transform our pain, struggles, tragic disappointments and brokenness into empathy, solidarity, forgiveness – and redemption and resurrection.”

Brokenness can be transformed into beauty: “Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. If a bowl is broken, rather than discarding the pieces, the fragments are put back together with a glue-like tree sap and the cracks are adorned with gold.

“There are no attempts to hide the damage, instead, it is highlighted. The practice has come to represent the idea that beauty can be found in imperfection. … Kintsugi makes something new from a broken pot, which is transformed to possess a different sort of beauty.

Leonard Cohen soothes:

“O, see the darkness yielding

“That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason

Come healing of the heart.

“O, troubledness concealing

An undivided love

The heart beneath is teaching

To the broken heart above.

“And let the heavens falter

Let the earth proclaim

Come healing of the altar

Come healing of the name.

“O, longing of the branches

To lift the little bud

O, longing of the arteries

To purify the blood

“And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

“O let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb.”

Comments

Honestman 3 months, 4 weeks ago

What an exceptional piece of writing and so very very true. Thank you for this Front Porch Simon.

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