For the first time ever, I used a wheelchair. Never in my life have I ever broken a bone, or done anything else to warrant the use of a wheelchair. I’ve used crutches after spraining my knee (thinking back, I might have dislocated it without realizing), but never a wheelchair. Pride is a vice that must be sacrificed in order to admit defeat and accept the help that a wheelchair can offer. I hate asking for help, and I hate pity. I don’t know what it is about that look, but the moment someone looks at me with pity is the moment I begin to feel like I’m somehow less than human. I think people mistake strength for weakness and weakness for strength. Being able to admit struggles isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. Or, at least, I like to think it is.
I recently started taking an ethics course at my college, and one of the first things my class discussed was pride. This week has been a trying week on me, and I really felt this classroom discussion could be aptly applied to my week. Last week, I had an allergic reaction to the paint in my classrooms, and as a result I was unable to attend classes. This past weekend, I finally managed to get past this, and was ready to finally begin classes. Until Monday came around, and my resting heart rate was between 110 and 150 bpm (beats per minute). I couldn’t stand up, let alone walk. It seemed the extreme heat was getting to me, and there was only one way I would make it to classes on Tuesday.
I have avoided wheelchairs for most of my life. I had nothing against them, but I recognized that I had absolutely no upper arm strength and I wouldn’t fare well in one. Needless to say, I was right. Getting in a wheelchair and allowing myself to admit defeat meant I was swallowing my pride. I needed help, because I couldn’t wheel myself everywhere. I had to endure the odd, uncomfortable looks that were shifted my way during class. And, when I knew the answer, I had to deal with people looking at me funny as I raised my hand to speak. After Tuesday, I had a newfound respect for wheelchair users, because they endure a lot on a day-to-day basis. My one day as an ambulatory wheelchair user is nothing compared to what those who use them daily go through. There’s a lot of prejudice against people with motility aids, prejudice we don’t even see. Dealing with that every day isn’t weakness. Dealing with prejudice and swallowing pride day in and day out; that is strength.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:25
I think this speaks volumes to pride and prejudice. I want a life free of chronic illness, but if I spend my whole life chasing this unachievable goal I will have wasted my entire life. But, if I swallow my pride and accept the prejudices against me, I can begin to enjoy the life I’m living. I have so much to gain from the latter. Similarly, without Jesus I am pursuing a life with an unachievable goal. But, with Jesus, everything is possible.
On another note, let’s talk about Biblical pride for a minute. In today’s society, we think of humility as a virtue in which an accomplished person does not boast of their accomplishments. But, what did Jesus mean when He told us to be humble? Fun fact: humility is not a virtue that can only be possessed by those who are accomplished. Yes, that is one kind of humility, but there is also weak humility. Weak humility is that of the lowest of the lows. The lepers of society. They were outcasts. They didn’t have lives. And, yet, Jesus calls us to be like them. He doesn’t call us to pity them. He calls us to be weak and humble like them, because Jesus recognizes that it is in their weakness that they are strong.
Jesus, Friend Of Sinners by Casting Crowns
“Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”