Hey all — it’s me, Matt, taking over the blog for just one post. It’s public confession time. I should have done this long ago when my loving wife first began to show me my sin, but I’m a proud and stubborn person, and am very capable of lying to myself and convincing myself not to act. Of course I tell myself that’s it’s not necessary, or that it won’t be appreciated, but it’s really just my cowardice at facing my own failures. So here goes. Come along if you like.
I confess that I am an arrogant person. My introverted nature makes it very easy for me to hide this from most people, but those who know me well can attest to this, I’m sure. I may not be prone to public bragging, or showy acts of arrogance, but my heart is self-centered and proud. And though the years, I’ve lied to myself, convincing myself that I’m a humble person because I don’t appear proud like “those jerks” who talk themselves up or act like they’re God’s gift to mankind. Well, it needs to change, and although I know it will be a slow process of tearing down the false humility and focusing on others instead of myself, I hope that at least confessing this publicly can give me a head start to living in true humility.
It’s been a slow process of discovery, and I can’t claim any credit for it: that goes to my truest friend and companion, my beautiful wife, Jaime. She loves me enough to point out the BS and show me my faults. And admittedly, sometimes I can’t stand her for that reason. She’s very good at zeroing in on the problems, and I would do well to listen often and listen sooner. But my pride often steps in and instead, and I get self-defensive or blow off what she’s telling me. Well, in this case, I want to talk about one particular area of pride for which I bear a huge burden of guilt. This area of pride is a family sin that I want to lay before you today because of the damage it’s done to Jaime, and the damage it has done to my sister, Alana. Earlier today, Alana posted this heart-wrenching post on Tumblr, and I realized that now would be a very good time to confess. Go read her story before we continue….
Okay, so I hope the connection is already becoming obvious, but let me spell this out clearly: I have spent my life judging the legitimacy of other people’s medical issues or suffering, and it is the height of misplaced pride and arrogance! I grew up in the Northern Minnesotan, Scandinavian culture of “toughing it out” and “dealing with it”, which generally means stuffing any discussion of feelings or pain, and carrying on without allowing anyone else to share the burden. But as if that weren’t arrogant enough (believing that people shouldn’t bother others for support, or share their problems), I logically extended that into an attitude of constant judgment towards those who were suffering, trusting my “vast” intellect to tell me whether something was legitimately bad enough to complain about or not.
Well, as Jaime has pointed out to me before, and as Alana’s post reminded me today, I AM NOT OMNISCIENT! I am not inside another person, and I am not in any position to judge their experience! I don’t even have the legitimacy of some medical degree so that I can pretend to know what another person is experiencing medically, or the suffering they’re going through. No, I am just an arrogant jerk who is perfectly happy to cast my judgment on my own sister, deciding for myself whether I believe the pain in her knees was as bad as she said, or whether the medical diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos was really the correct diagnosis. Who do I think I am? What right do I have to decide whether someone’s pain is legit? Why the *BLEEP* is that even the place my arrogant brain goes when someone shares their hurt?!
And to make matters even worse, I’ve carried the same arrogance into my marriage, and made judgments about the severity of Jaime’s allergies. I know what allergies look like for me (runny nose and sneezing), and I know what triggers them, so somehow in my arrogant and foolish mind, that makes me the expert to judge whether Jaime really suffers the symptoms she tells me she suffers. I am ashamed to admit that I arrogantly trusted my own “knowledge” about allergies over that of my wife and the medical professionals she’s worked with to manage them! This is the depraved level my own pride and arrogance is capable of reaching. I am horrified that I am so self-centered that I didn’t take Jaime at her word when she shared how awful her allergies are: even while on daily allergy meds, Jaime still has horrible upper respiratory problems when allergens are present that make it hard to breathe or sleep or even think, and even short exposure often turns to a sinus infection. But rather than taking the truth to heart and acting accordingly to make our home a safe oasis for her (avoid dogs and cats, shower ASAP when we’ve been exposed, get clothes straight into the washer to avoid spreading allergens in our house), I selfishly whine about the extra work required. We’ve been married for 9 years, and together for 11, and yet still, in all that time, I haven’t once set myself aside and just chosen to believe Jaime when she tells me what needs to be done, with no complaining or rationalizing. And I haven’t once prioritized making our home a safe haven for Jaime over making my life easier.
So, this is about to get personal: If you can’t take that, turn away now.
Alana, thank you for sharing such a painful and convicting post. I confess that in my pride and arrogance and judgmental attitude, I have failed you as a brother for so many years. I confess that I wrote you off as a hypochondriac, and didn’t believe the pain you were experiencing. And I confess that my disbelief of you was unloving and prideful. It invalidated you as a person, and in that way, I directly contributed to the psychological pain you’ve experienced throughout the years as you’ve tried to reconcile the pain you’ve experienced with the message of disbelief you received. I confess that I arrogantly blamed your health problems on your weight, and that I judged you for not “trying harder” to improve. No matter what I told myself over the years, this was not “caring for you and wanting the best for you” — this was arrogance. And although I didn’t directly comment to you about your weight, I apologize for judging you in my heart in this way. You are a beautiful child of God, and you’ve endured immense suffering that I will never know until I choose to listen to you. So I do choose to listen, and I love you. I’m so sorry.
Jaime, thank you for confronting me on my arrogance and pride — you are strong and courageous, and you are gracious towards me when I certainly don’t deserve it. I confess that in my arrogance and pride, I didn’t trust what you told me about your allergies. I have been arrogant and judgmental, trusting my own experience above yours. This self-centeredness is disrespectful, arrogant, and unloving towards you, the person I promised to love and cherish. I confess that I have been defensive about my failures in this area, and have blown off just how damaging my treatment of you was. I have been invalidating of your suffering, and there is no excuse for it. I confess that I often place my own comfort or convenience above your needs in this area, and I whine about the extra “burden” it puts on me instead of empathizing with the burden you bear and setting you and your safety higher than myself. I apologize for being such a self-absorbed, whiny, arrogant, and judgmental jerk to you. I’m sorry that in all our time together, I still haven’t believed you fully, to the point where I take you at your word with no complaints and take the initiative to care for you and make our home safe. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, even (and especially) when I don’t see it. Thank you for being patient with me all these years that it’s taken me to finally understand and take your message to heart. You’re a beautiful child of God, and I love you. And although I often fail, I choose to listen to you. I love you, and I’m so sorry.