Pride Goes Before

The United States of America is a proud nation. We’ve deliberately cultivated that pride for a long time. “A Beacon of Democracy” and “The Greatest Nation on Earth” and all that sort of rhetoric. It’s a part of the national ethos.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we the people of the United States of America elected an especially proud man, Donald Trump, as our President in 2016. He bragged about his sexual conquests, his business conquests, and his political conquests as he campaigned for office. I found his braggadoccio off-putting and unconvincing. (I believe that many of those who present themselves as the most arrogant are actually the most insecure). Nevertheless, a lot of my fellow Americans appreciated Donald Trump’s “swagger” and “boldness.” His pride.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to observe the way the last few years — and especially the last few months and the last few days — have played out. Prideful people do prideful things.

I believe — both from my own experiences as a Precinct Election Official and from my personal research of credible sources — that Donald Trump lost a fair election in November. Still, I recognize that 46.9% of my fellow Americans were hoping for a different outcome. And a subset of those 46.9% of Americans have been willing to play into Donald Trump’s pride and prejudice, sustaining his accusations of fraud. Sustaining his pride. So a subset of that subset heeded the proud President’s plea to march on the Capitol and protest the process of certifying the election results. And a subset of that subset were willing to violently force their way into the Capitol to disrupt the proceedings.

So, I know that we’re talking about a minority of a minority of a minority of a minority. Yesterday’s chaotic and violent events in Washington D.C. do not represent all Americans, or all Republicans, or all election skeptics, or even all those who gathered to demonstrate. Still, I feel it’s important to note that we’ve all fallen victim to pride and exceptionalism. And even the way that we are responding to current events reveals our pride and posture toward others. So we must all take heed:

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.
Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.
The wise in heart are called discerning,
and gracious words promote instruction.
Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
but folly brings punishment to fools.
The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
and their lips promote instruction.

Proverbs 16:18-23

Pride is what makes for bad losers. And bad winners, too. So no matter what our political persuasion might be, we all need to stay on the look-out for pride in our hearts and in our words.

I’ve also found that prayer is an important expression of heeding instruction, developing trust, practicing discernment, and promoting prudence. We need to pray for others, especially those we consider to be our “enemies.” So I’m sincerely hoping and praying that President Donald Trump will change course and stop sowing the seeds of doubt and discord to assuage his own pride. I resonated with the recent comments from Senator Mitt Romney, pointing out that yesterday’s chaos was “due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action” in the hours leading up to the breach of security at the Capitol. The way that Donald Trump responded to yesterday’s extreme events makes it clearer than ever that we need a change in the Oval Office.

But the trouble won’t stop, even if there were to be a miraculous, full 180-degree turn from Donald Trump in his last days in office. The trouble won’t stop, even with the inauguration of Joe Biden.

We need to continue examining our own hearts. Bernice King suggested, “We need to stop saying ‘This is not who we are’ in ‘America.’ Indeed, this is not who and what the United States should be, but denial won’t make the injustices and inhumane ideologies less so. We can’t change without truth.” I’m inclined to agree with Shane Claiborne that, “Trump didn’t change America. Trump revealed America. To those who say: ‘This isn’t America’… I wish that were true. The truth is this IS America… Not all of America, but much more than we want to believe. We have work to do.”

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