Friday, July 8, 2011

Humble work

"Pride is not the opposite of shame. It is its source. Only true humility can combat shame."

I tweeted this last night to some retweets. Thought it was interesting to give a bit of a back story for this spiritual sci-fi Friday.

I was watching Avatar last night. Not James Cameron's Dances with Smurfs version and not the sad live action version they made last night. I'm talking about the wonderful series on Nickelodeon that lasted three seasons over the span of a few years.

Avatar: The Last Air bender takes place on a world where the four elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, Water) are also able to be bent or moved. Each element is associated with a tribe. Each tribe is able to move, fight, build, etc with these elements. Each element is also associated with a martial arts fighting style.

At one time, all nations lived in harmony, then 100 years prior, the Fire Nation started invading and taking over the other nations. Disharmony.

I was watching the episode "Bitter Work" last night and caught a line given by Uncle Iroh. Unlce Iroh and his nephew Prince Zuko are royalty who are now fugitives of the nation they call home.

Iroh is teaching Zuko how to create lighting--something only very powerful firebenders know how to do (one of which is Zuko's sister...way in depth, sorry). And Zuko fails. Zuko isn't happy about that.

Iroh tells Zuko that he must let go of his anger and shame in order to have the focus needed to create lighting. Zuko's answer (while yelling of course) "I'm not angry!. I'm not ashamed. I'm very proud of who I am."

And then Iroh says this very wise statement "Pride is not the opposite of shame. It is its source. Only true humility can combat shame." Wow. Dude. Sweet. Yes! I had to tweet this. And I then almost just left it at that. And I think at that, yes, it is very wise and true. But it was missing something.

I added "Christ's humility is the opposite of shame." Dude. It just went from a wise Buddhist thought to something more deeper and powerful.

If I had just left it where it was at. I think I could have taken it and then walked away. But once I realized the importance of true humility, then I realized I needed to add that line.

Jesus' true humility wasn't when he went to the cross. That was just the moment where it all came together. He humbled himself from the very beginning. He left the perfect relationship of the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--and humbled himself to walk among us. I mean seriously, how far is Heaven from Bethlehem? that's how much he humbled himself. And he did so from the very beginning, from a baby that needed it's britches cleaned up until he allowed himself to be taken to the cross (More about this and Klingons in an older post).

Our own pride is the source for our shame. We puff ourselves up and when we get deflated like an old bicycle tire, we run and hide. True humility is realizing that, yes, you are a deflated bicycle tire but you're able to be pumped by God, through Christ by the wind of the Holy Spirit. Okay, waaaay to theological here.. sorry.

In short, Iroh is right. To combat shame, it is not pride but humility we need. The humility we need though is the humility of Jesus.

Where are some areas where you need to change your view of shame and pride and focus on humility?


  1. Huh, interesting chain of thought here.

  2. it's what happens when you jot down ideas at 11 at night after tweeting something. Helps to be ADD too.