We often see the term "Just Pride" used as though pride in any form were justifiable. Most persons nowadays are ready enough to condemn pride of blood and pride of wealth, though such condemnation is not often unmixed with envy, but the pride of an honorable name or of worthy achievement or of genius few think of condemning, and there is even a pride in poverty itself which is often its greatest burden and which stands squarely against all progress and all improvement. Yet are not all these things incidents of life, mere accessories or human nature, only fancied possessions, not real.
Let it be understood that pride per se is evil and that only, and that the indulgence of it in any form or for any reason is also evil and folly. Pride is the basis of all caste and caste legislation in State or in society. The meaning of it is that, because of this or that, I am better than my neighbor, and, being better than he, I cannot therefore associate with him on equal terms, and this it is, more than all else save only greed, that prevents the reign of Universal Brotherhood.
"What, then," says one, "do you deny that there are inequalities in life that one is wise and another foolish, one beautiful and another deformed and ugly, one strong and another weak?" Surely not; but he who is strong is weakened by pride; he who is beautiful is deformed by pride; and he who is wise is degraded by pride to the level of folly. Pride of wealth, blood, power, and place is by no means the only offence. Who has not seen the so-called educated dominate and trample upon the ignorant as ruthlessly as the strong can anywhere overcome the weak, or the rich oppress the poor?
Such are never educated in any true sense, though they have that base coinage which passes current in an age of mediocrity and is often mistaken for true gold, to be found at last but "fool's gold." How many people are brave and noble in adversity; how many good people have been spoiled by prosperity. And what are good and bad, rich and poor, wise and ignorant, but terms of comparison, mere temporary states, inns for the night, stations for a day in the journey of the soul!
The desire to better one's condition in life is natural enough, and is the key to all personal progress. To feel that one is designed for better things than he has yet achieved is an intuition of the soul, its choicest heritage, but all such achievements should be by honest endeavor, not by fraud. He who can simply grumble at Providence for having placed him below his deserts is not likely to better his condition. Thousands of poor persons who hate and envy others because they are rich would, if grown suddenly rich, be more proud and oppressive than any whom they now despise; and very few among these envious poor are willing to practice the economy and self-denial which are the cause of the wealth they envy; and yet they are fond of saying "we are as good as they," and will often repel kindness and offers of assistance with scorn, too proud to be pensioners, yet not too proud to be envious.
Pride doth indeed cover a multitude of sins. Pride is evil in any form, though it may and doubtless does serve to push the soul to better things, just as fear restrains it from worse things. When once it has been clearly perceived that nothing which can by any possibility be the subject of envy or pride is in any sense a true possession, then pride and envy must cease. Wealth, fame, and power, — these are but relative terms for temporary states, and envy is the false light by which they allure their pursuers, while pride is the miasm by which they silence the voice of the soul and lull it to lethargy and decay. He who seeks real possessions, to have and to hold by the soul's franchise, envieth not and is never proud, for he well knows that the things that he prizes are the heritage of humanity. He cannot hold them or compass them, create or destroy them, though he can become a part of them through the serving of all, and thus partake of their nature. These are Truth, Justice, Love, and Understanding, not mere "abstract qualities," but the Jewels of the soul no less than the crown and glory of the Deity. These shine by their own light, and are to be loved and sought for themselves alone. We shall not envy, but rather honor, him who possesses them. Possessing them, we shall not be proud, but reverent, grateful, helpful, and so help on the reign of Universal Brotherhood, well knowing that every jewel we help to place in the crown of a brother will add lustre to our own. These are the true possessions, and they are divested of all pride and envy.
THE GREAT ORPHAN. (1)
Woe stalks abroad in all the land,
Want and despair together stand,
God's image trampled in the dust!
How long, O Lord! and Thou art just?
How long! How long! O just and wise!
These empty hands, these hungry cries?
God's providence is always seen
Through man, in garb of Nazarene:
Man prays to God with up-turned eyes,
While at his feet his brother lies:
How long! How long, O Pharisee!
Ere brazen skies will answer thee.
All store of food, all wealth of gold,
Are given to man to have and hold;
To hold at peril, if he dare
Deprive his brother of his share,
Enough for all by measure just,
Who holdeth more but holds in trust.
The almoner of God is he
Whose hands are filled by destiny.
God's special providence to show
Through man, to man, to lighten woe.
Relief of needs through human deeds,
All Heaven waits; all Nature pleads.
Great suffering soul! Humanity!
Father divine,! Humanity!
Mother divine! no more concealed,
Behold the mystery revealed!
These three in one, and one in three,
God all in all, Humanity!
1. "Humanity is the Great Orphan." St. Martin. (return to text)
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