Pride, not Arrogance

by Reverend Charles Bidwell, Ph.D.

If you're like most of the folks I know, you probably didn't consider yourself a loved child of God when you were growing up. You probably thought that you would only be accepted/valued by being like everyone else and by doing certain expected things. You probably never felt that what you were and how you felt were gifts to humanity from God. You probably lived much of your life not being proud of who you were or are and hiding your uniqueness. You were probably also taught that pride is a sin.

Well the good news is that you are God's beloved creation and your uniqueness is something to be proud of. We are learning that we have every right to be respected as children of God.

Pride is a virtuous attribute. As children of God and as uniquely gifted creatures we ought to be proud of who we are. We may not always be proud of what we say and do (and that leads us to review our living and reform our ways to be more in harmony with God's love - but that is another message.)

Many of us grew up with the list of the "seven deadly sins" as: anger, envy, pride, gluttony, lust, greed, and sloth. The sin of pride occupied a prominent place in that grand tableau. Many of us had ingrained in our minds that to be proud was a bad thing. I believe that what is sinful is arrogance - the idea that we are better or superior to others. There are scenes and parables in the Christian Scriptures that urge us to avoid arrogance and to be humble. When you go to a party do not sit at the head table lest the host come and say that you are in the seat on a more honoured guest and you will be humiliated at having to take a "lower" seat. But instead, sit at a humble seat and then, if the host chooses, you will be invited to come and sit at a more exalted place [Luke 14:7-11]. Arrogance is what separates us and divides us and interferes with humility and empathy and respect. That is why arrogance is sinful and pride can be virtuous.

So I endorse gay pride and I celebrate our diversity. Are we a proud community? Are we proud of the accomplishments and of our behaviour? What are you doing to increase pride in our diverse community in Edmonton? When the Canadian Government passed Bill 33 and every Canadian was protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, we had cause to celebrate. When the Human Rights Tribunal recently directed the Canadian Government and all the agencies it regulates to rewrite their policies to ensure that same-sex partners receive equal treatment to mixed-sex partnerships, we had cause to celebrate that finally another "right" and justice-making thing had happened in our land.

But there is more to our community life than an absence of discrimination. What were your needs when you came out? Where did you turn to get help or a listening ear? Who was there for you? OK, now, how are you showing your gratitude for that gift? What are you contributing to our community? What is making you proud to be a part of this community? If something is not making you proud of our community, then what are you doing about it to correct or improve the situation?

The annual Pride Awards recognize contributions of individuals and groups to the community. These people have given back to our community because of what they have received. They are diverse and they are proud of our community. We have a solid core of dedicated individuals and we can welcome even more people to participate in our community life and leadership.

The best way to get to know a community or group of people is to listen to what they tell you about themselves. When you do that with those people, you see a diverse community of people, many of whom have a deep spirituality; being subjected to bigotry and oppression simply for being who you are tends to cultivate that. We also see individuals who have come to an understanding in their sense of self that allows their own freedom as well as that of others. The positive sense of self-esteem that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people feel as the result of their quest for self-understanding is healthy and does not make us feel in any way superior (arrogant) to others.

Gay pride endorses the concept that it is appropriate for all people to enter into loving, committed relationships openly, to be safe on our own streets, to keep our families (by birth, adoption, or choice) intact.

Just as we have come to understand that some expressions of anger are appropriate, so are some expressions of pride: pride in achievement and pride in self-esteem among them. Gay pride is a celebration of the full range of God-given human diversity. God creates us spectacularly diverse. The sin of pride--the destructive aspect--is the arrogance, the haughtiness, the self-importance, and the disregard for the needs and the rights of others. We need to avoid it while at the same time building the events and services in our community which increase our pride and self-esteem. Take pride in our diverse community - there's a place for you to participate.

Once we might have thought we were not valued, but thank God some people didn't believe that myth and declared that they knew themselves to be equal to all other humans and to be children of God, as much as anyone else. Because of their convictions and service we are growing in our community self-esteem and personal comfort in Edmonton. You are loved for who you are and your unique feelings and insights. Be proud and serve alongside the spirits of those who have gone before to bring us this far.