Pitiful Pride: Woe is Me, I’m a Failure

Have you ever been at an elementary school when the end-of-school bell rings? It looks something like the running of the bulls in Spain. It looks like children have literally exploded out of the building, released from prison. Of course, such behavior wanes as children get older.

When the bell rang ending my class– waking a few of my pupils– the students looked as if they were back in elementary school. I had never seen a classroom empty so quickly. It probably created a backdraft– the kind you feel when a truck goes by. No one asked a question. No one said good-bye.

I drove home, sat at the dining room table, and immediately started looking in the want ads, hoping to find a job where I didn’t have to see or talk to a person.

“Woe is me,” I though. “What a horrible failure. I am humiliated. I don’t ever want to see those students again.”

As I browsed through the paper, looking like a little boy who lost his dog (and hoping my wife would ask me what was wrong), my wife finally did why I looked so blue. After hearing the pitiful tale, she gave some great counsel.

“Stop that,” she said. “You have responsibilities to your students.”

It wasn’t exactly the counsel that I wanted to hear. I wanted to be filled with sympathy and unconditional love. “Oh honey, I’m sure class was great, and even if it wasn’t, I still think you’re great…” If she would have asked I could have scripted her response. But she chose something that went more directly to the heart.

“Stop that” was exactly what I needed. It was shorthand for, “Why are you so consumed with yourself? I want you to be liberated from self-concern by fearing God and knowing your duty.”

Sheri’s wake-up call sent me on a new course. I began to look more seriously at the selfishness and pride that lurked right below my woe-is-me exterior. It wasn’t pretty. As John Calvin suggested, I wasn’t a love cup; I was an idol factory. I wanted to worship something or someone that would give me glory. Not too much glory, of course. Just enough to make me feel good about myself. If my student-idols could have just asked a few good questions after class and not left in such a rush, that would have been enough– for then.

My cup was filled with me. It was not empty.

This is an excerpt from a books I read last year, When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man, by Ed Welch. As a person who teaches, this story hit me right where it hurts. This¬†unruly¬†kind of pride is not as easily distinguished as the kind that openly boasts, but it’s just as (if not more) damaging. This short story provided me with great wisdom in dealing with the sinful pride can wrongly be mistaken as humility.

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