Pride and Humility

The theme of the recent Leather Leadership Conference in Los Angeles was “Lost Angels.” A running concept throughout the conference was the Seven Deadly Sins. A welcoming video at the opening ceremonies helpfully listed them: wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, envy, lust, and pride.

Say what? “Pride”? You mean we, the Twin Cities GLBT and leather/BDSM/fetish communities, are spending the entire month of June celebrating one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Yes, according to the thinking in certain theological circles, we are celebrating not just one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but the worst and most serious of them—the one that gives rise to the other six.

It gets worse. Over the centuries, people have formulated pairings of the Seven Deadly Sins and the demons who represent them. In at least two of these pairings, pride is associated with Lucifer, the foremost of those “lost angels.”

Let’s define our terms here. Pride (and its synonym, hubris) is a translation of the Latin word “superbia,” which means excessive love of self—thinking that one is better and/or more important than everyone else.

Dante defined it as “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour.” Lucifer supposedly fell from heaven, and became a lost angel, because of his desire to compete with God.

That’s not what we’re celebrating. That’s not what GLBT Pride and Leather Pride are all about. June, and its various Pride celebrations, are not about saying we’re better than anyone else. For members of both the GLBT and leather/BDSM/fetish communities, Pride celebrations are about saying, and believing, that we’re as good as anyone else.

We are able to do so despite all the hurtful messages we’ve heard, and all the hateful things done to us over the years. Whether it’s whom we love or how we love, many people have felt, and continue to feel, so threatened by people like us that they do their best to paint us as sick, twisted, immoral, perverted, and evil. They tell themselves and the rest of the world very loudly that they are not like us.

When confronted with people saying things like this, I remember that often, they are speaking first and most loudly to themselves, and to the part of themselves they feel a need to disown. For their sake, I hope one day, they will be able to accept and integrate that part of themselves. They will be happier, and they will no longer need to bully us to make themselves feel better or more righteous.

Fortunately, many people don’t feel a need to attack us. Paradoxically, because they know they are not like us, they don’t perceive us as a threat, and they can accept us and support us as we are. They are allies, and we are blessed to have them.

One example: During a recent legislative hearing on Minnesota’s proposed constitutional ban on marriage equality, Representative Steve Simon asked: “How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wanted them around?”

Back to theology: The Seven Deadly Sins, of course, have a counterpart in the Seven Virtues, each one of which directly opposes one of the sins. The virtue opposite pride is humility, which through the centuries has been described as “knowing ourselves as we truly are,” with the corollary of not getting uppity, and thinking we can challenge the king or God (see Lucifer, above).

This is “true humility,” as opposed to “false humility,” which is insincerely pretending to be lesser, lower, or something other than what we truly are in order to receive approval and praise. False humility is pretty much universally condemned.

To me, that definition of false humility sounds like staying in the closet in order to receive society’s approval. But leave aside the part about not getting uppity, and true humility—knowing ourselves as we truly are, and living our life authentically—to me, is what a Pride celebration is all about.

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