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Kneel

"If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his [or her] own...how much kinder, how much gentler he [or she] would be."
--William Allen White

"Humility can be sought but never celebrated."
--Unknown

Lindsay Lohan recently joined the list of celebrities who have spent time in rehabilitation. She was suspected of driving under the influence after crashing her Mercedes; cocaine was also tentatively identified at the scene. It is simple to scoff and point a glaring finger at her mistakes, but she acknowledges the tenet of every organization that exists to help individuals get well: "I have a problem." Paris Hilton is serving jail time and Britney Spears is reorganizing her life, aptly noted on her website: "I am 25 and I do still have a lot to learn, and I am going to make mistakes everyday, and I am sure every mistake I make will probably be on CNN or Good Morning America. I am only human people and I love you for still loving me." Disgust or apathy tend to be the perception of these young stars, but is it possible lament is the better word? Are their stories simply more Hollywood banter to gossip about or are they authentic glimpses into the deep trenches of a person's soul?

I recently heard someone discuss the power of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. Having exhausted all resources, men and women join this community on a daily basis. In fact, consider the wisdom of this gathering: everyone is working towards the same goal; accountability to others is pivotal; relapse is possible; boasting is a vain exercise; success can be achieved. Ironically, finding assistance comes with a difficult admission, perhaps the hardest phrase to utter: "I cannot do this on my own." When pride falls down, when the walls of the false self crumble, restoration begins. Solomon, a king of ancient Israel, writes, "A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor." In this particular sentence, the ancient Hebrew word for low is shaphel and means "sink" or "abased." It's vexing that "lowly" and "honor" reside together, but strength rises when we look to others for support and encouragement. And as a society, we expose those who are not genuine, who give shoddy efforts. But it is our secret hope the hurting discover wellness.

As wellness emerges, numerous lessons are revealed, two of which worth noting. The first is wisdom, recognizing the warning signs that lead to pride, lust, jealousy, and the list of other vices society engages with on a daily basis; the second is humility, a new look on life, fresh eyes. The opening quote captures this outlook, for it contains a paradox. Those who celebrate humility are ironically revealing its antithesis, pride. The humble deflect attention and prefer not to be recognized; they wish to serve or volunteer quietly, letting their actions go unnoticed. Few live by this mantra though. In seeking importance, purpose, status and prestige, men and women intentionally verbalize accomplishments to others. And even if they don't, others tend to do it for them. And the truth is quite simple--we enjoy the attention, the praise of others, the flash of the camera bulb, the awards that grace the den walls. Otherwise, there is no need for magazines, television, books, or film. Our society revolves around the power of the human spirit.

Although pride is generally framed through negative connotations, there is additional room on the spectrum. Pride is healthy and another way of describing self-respect. Everyone has abilities, passions, and gifts to make the world a better place. We take pride in a family heirloom or a rare piece of art, a new car or a job promotion. Many feel a deep sense of civic pride as they vote. Pride is good, but becomes unhealthy when the measure of one's self becomes exaggerated or excessive. It is then a mind of egotism and vanity begins to blossom, the person no one wishes to be around. Oddly enough, we tend to secretly admire the arrogant, those that seem to have life together and always comment on the comments of others. But a different person may live behind closed doors, a depressed person, a hurting person. Unfortunately, it easier to put the mask of happiness on, burying true emotions.

Pride has also been the focal point of race recently. Mel Gibson was blasted for his remarks about Jewish men and women, Don Imus made a callous remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team, and Michael Richards may have ended his career during a stand-up routine some months back. Pride has been the basis for the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. And while racism seems quiet, it's presence is everywhere. I watched "American History X" (1998) two months ago and spent the remaining moments of the evening in jarring shock and deep reflection. Derek Vinyard, eerily portrayed by Edward Norton, is a former Neo-Nazi who tries to prevent his younger brother from following his path. Vinyard is influenced by a man consumed with white pride, further driven by hate for minorities after his father dies. He murders a young black man and heads to prison; what he discovers is hell on earth, total breakdown. It is then Vinyard decides to give up his former way of life. And ironically, a black teacher never gives up on the true man he sees within Derek.

"American History X" and "Crash" have revealed to me I have racist tendencies. Everyone has racial tendencies. Though they may never be vocalized, I process these thoughts unconsciously. Again, it easier to look at the faults of others. Looking inside is difficult and reveals unwanted character traits; growth comes when we come to the understanding that change for the better can occur. Pride keeps us from this admission, the blatant denial that no problem exists, that all is well. Solomon writes, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Humility resides in the heart of those who listen, internalize, respond, grow. Societal wisdom may denote the humble as weak. But in light of the Scriptures, unconventional wisdom is apparent.

St. Paul talks about strength in weakness. The ancient Greek word for weak is astheneia and means "to bear trials and troubles." Life is full of astheneia, working through problems that arise day to day--strained relationships, parenting, divorce, anger, jealousy, finances, purpose, existence, peace. But like rehabilitation, strength comes when we look beyond our means and seek the help of another, a higher power perhaps. Calm begins to sweep over a chaotic mind and rest begins to engulf the soul. Men and women who enter rehabilitation and sit down acknowledge this statement, verbally or mentally: "I need help." And sitting across from them is someone who wishes to do just that. In fact, this motion of sitting down is similar to a posture in which both legs rest down on the earth.

Austin Bonds is the author of Genuine Existence and creator of BECOMING GENUINE DAILY, a movement that exists to recognize the overlap between the spiritual and the cultural. For more information, visit http://www.becominggenuinedaily.net

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