Humility is not an easy quality to achieve or maintain. I was bullied a lot as a child, and it hardened me to the point that I thought I was uniquely deserving of sympathy and that other people were responsible for my misery. I didn’t understand the power I could have had to control my feelings. That is until I was forced to come face to face with my own shortcomings at the age of 20.
Being Stripped of Pride
One night, a young man I was roommates with told me he wanted to get a cat for our apartment, but I replied matter-of-factly that we weren’t going to do that because it would be a violation of our lease, and it would also be a bad idea for many other reasons that I recounted. I wasn’t kind, but I thought nothing of it because I knew he was being irrational. And then he told me I was a jerk. I had never thought of myself in that term before, and I sat in stunned silence as he laid out all of the ways I was being a rude, self-centered jerk who had no empathy or kindness.
When he was done berating me, he left the room and slammed his door. I was left alone with my thoughts. I felt hurt, but slowly it transformed into something else. It felt like my protective walls of self-esteem were being knocked down one by one as I mulled over his words. I knew he was right, and it burned me deeply to admit it. I didn’t know how to treat people kindly. I was so self-absorbed, it was painful to switch my perspective and look at things from his point of view. But I did, and I realized that even if I was technically right about the issue we had quarreled over, I hadn’t shown any tact in the encounter. In truth, I had no tact at all.
My first act after coming out of my reverie was to try to do something for him, not myself. I wanted to repair some of the damage I had done and show that I was capable of being something other than solipsistic. I remembered hearing that Martin Luther had nailed 95 Theses to a church when he wanted to confront a major problem he saw, so I got to work writing 95 things I liked about my roommate. It took me a while, but I managed to finish it that night. Not only did it help me think of someone other than myself, but it also helped me remember what I liked about him and it softened my heart toward him so I wouldn’t become bitter because of what he had told me. I taped my list to the outside of his bedroom door and then retired for the evening.
The next morning, we didn’t see much of each other at the start and I didn’t say anything to him. I wasn’t trying to give him the silent treatment; I just didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure if he had seen the papers on his door or not. After a while, he approached me and thanked me for my kind words and apologized for what he had said. I forgave him and admitted he was right about me. We were never the best of friends after that, but I will always be grateful to him for helping me reach a turning point in my life. I had always thought I was a good person up to that point, but suddenly I had to confront the fact that I had major flaws keeping me from connecting with people and being happy.
From then on, I worked diligently to soften my hard heart, seek forgiveness for my mistakes, improve my personality, be more conversational and complimentary, and be a worthwhile friend to everyone. I strove not to hold grudges or withhold gratitude. I make no claim to be perfect or above anyone else. I’m just always seeking to be better every day so that the people around me will be uplifted, and I will feel fulfilled. It’s an interesting irony that showing concern for others seems to make a man much happier than just thinking of himself.
Pride and Prejudice Connection
Now that I’ve bared my soul, I wish to draw a comparison to two scenes in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve talked about that version of that classic Jane Austen novel in several other articles, but there’s just so much to say about it that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bringing it up. The first scene is of Mr. Darcy proposing to a shocked Elizabeth Bennet. She had thought that he absolutely loathed her and she’s distraught at the news that he recently ruined her older sister’s chances of marrying Mr. Bingley, even though they’re perfect for each other. This is how that encounter unfolds:
I know how Darcy felt at the end of that scene. He thought he was completely in the right as he matter-of-factly mocked Elizabeth’s family and other connections. He probably thought that there was no way his marriage proposal would be rejected, but he had another thing coming because he underestimated her strong will. To his shock, she slashes away at all of the things he thought were his strengths and forces him to come to terms with his unconfessed weaknesses. Of course, it’s not an instantaneous change of heart. It takes months for her words to sink in.
The beautiful thing about Pride and Prejudice is that Darcy isn’t the only one who has to swallow his pride and examine his prejudices. That night, he writes a letter to Elizabeth that opens her eyes to her many blind spots concerning her family and friends. It’s an unpleasant experience to admit that he’s right on many counts. He wasn’t kind or tactful in the way he presented this information to her, but she can’t deny the truth of his words that there’s no logical reason for her to be attractive to a high-status suitor because she carries a lot of baggage by being related to far too many low-quality people.
As I said, it takes many months for the two of them to correct their faults and be reconciled. But it’s all worth it because it leads to one of my favorite scenes of any movie:
This resolution is immensely satisfying because these two characters have undergone so much growth over the course of the film. It’s not that Darcy alone needed to improve himself to be worthy of Elizabeth, but that she, too, needed to strengthen her character and change as a result of his insights. When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth a second time, he does it in a much humbler fashion, and she accepts graciously, finally recognizing what a beautiful gesture he is making. Darcy’s first proposal is a turning point for both characters. Its aftermath leads both Darcy and Elizabeth to question everything that they thought was set in stone and to open themselves to the possibility that they are wrong. To make yourself vulnerable to someone else is a humbling experience. The fact that both of these individuals managed to change for the better as a result of taking a beating to their pride speaks volumes about their character.
It’s easy to become bitter over hurtful words. It’s harder to become humble. The next time we get taken down a notch by someone, even if we think we’re in the right, I hope we will pause before reacting angrily and see if there might be some uncomfortable truths contained in that reprimand. It might just be a turning point that leads us to a better life.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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