Lizzie Bennett, Pride, and Me

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When did I first meet you, Lizzie Bennet? My guess is senior english; I wish it had been sooner.

Dear Lizzie, I thought I was a wit, too. And a piano player. At least you knew your limits on the latter.

I could have used you senior recital day, some months after I must have met you. So I can’t even beg the excuse that your cautionary tale hadn’t been told to me.

Exhibit A:

My best friend emceed the concert evening, made up of all of us going to meet our ignominy at music contest festival. Playing before a judge would be sufficient terror for me, but playing before an auditorium full of kids, many of whom had never particularly liked me, and their parents? Would that be something akin to how you felt having to play and sing for Miss Bingley? Lady Catherine?

Probably not. You appear to be an extrovert, at least, and that could have saved you. At least, your bravado would have. We introverts do not comprehend that level of nonchalance.

But my friend and I were at odds just then. We were not comrades on that stage, he with the microphone and I with the sheet music. He introduced me as playing Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique, joking into the mic a hope that my playing would be far from pathetic. I muttered on my way across the stage, which seemed enormous, “You’re pathetic.”

As witty comebacks go, well, it shouldn’t have gone.

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Photo by Nahir Giorgio on Unsplash

The playing was, in fact, fairly pathetic, as I always bit off more than I could chew, musically and otherwise. My 17-year-old Red-Bullesque emotions, hurt and anger from our rift, didn’t enhance the non-virtuoso performance.

We Know Now

Lizzie, you didn’t hate Mr. Darcy for his pride so much as for yours. Oh, I get that now.

When he hurled those accusations of poor family connections, vulgar behavior on the part of your relations, and less-than-stellar paternal judgment, you didn’t hate him.

You hated that it was true.

See, Lizzie, I know how that goes. I spent my teen years hating other people first so that they would not get close  enough to see that it was all true.

We were misfits, my family and I. I was a loser, behind the straight-A facade. I didn’t grasp all the social cues that made it all so effortless for the Misses Darcy and Bingley of McHenry High.

I could dance a superb jitterbug or disco, in fact, but the Dancing Through Life concept was beyond me. I didn’t ever glide where turf was smooth.

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Photo by David Charles Schuett on Unsplash

My favorite activity was debate team, where I could make someone else look small and me brilliant, and I got points for doing it. I excelled at debate team.

Drama worked too, because I could be someone else on stage, and I liked being someone else. Anyone else.

Years later, I’d hear phrases like “imposter syndrome” and I would come to realize that pretty much everyone in high school feels like a loser, but that was many years later.

Jane Austen, I Salute You

I am still in awe of your creator that she managed to write a book where everyone, including you, assumed it was his pride and your prejudice that caused all the issues, when really—Ms. Austen was laughing politely into her palm all the time—it was quite the other way around.

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Pride is an expert at camouflage. I assumed it couldn’t endanger me so long as I thought so little of myself. I didn’t grasp the deep drive underneath my words, like “you’re pathetic,” that propelled me to be better, smarter, more talented, whatever.

I needed my pride because I was so afraid it was all true.

Exhibit B:

I stopped my Old Testament prof near the registration desk. “I don’t understand why I got this score. What was wrong with the short answers?”

He looked at me quizzically. “I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

“I think I deserved an A.”

“You got an A-.”

Me. Still standing there. Looking at him.

“You are actually arguing over an A- on an OT mid-term?”

I should have gotten a clue by his face, really.

It wasn’t the superior, “I don’t even give A’s, so why are you wasting my holy time?” sort of look. I had one prof like that. 

It was more a look of, “This should not bother a person who wants to be a pastor, and I’m trying to find a nice way of saying that, AND BTW, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Something clicked into place. I didn’t want to be the pastor who spent her life checking her stats on “Rate My Pastor.” (Please tell me no such site exists. Please.)

I wanted to stop fighting for a spot on a pedestal. Heights make me dizzy, anyway. 

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Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

It was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice . . . In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. CS Lewis

I do hate being patronized. So much. I know you did, Lizzie. I fidget in my seat, too, whenever I read the dialog (monologue) between you and Lady Catherine. I bite my tongue, too. She’s so interfering. So controlling. So . . . prideful. So much like I probably could be, and so could you, if we didn’t have a good sense of humor.

Are you, too, an Enneagram 5, Lizzie? Pride is the dark side of those of us who fall into the 5 range. I never understood it better than when I learned this was my core personality—my core need.

Enneagram 5:

  • Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
  • Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

So competent I could not handle an A-.

“Pride leads to every other vice . . .” And yet it is such a vise itself. It grips us so tightly we have to work to keep the handle supple, yielding in its turn. We must consciously turn it back, dial it in, remind ourselves that backward is sometimes the best way to turn when we’re hurtling forward into our own self-interest.

Backward reminds us to let out the throttle of pride, before it sends us careening toward destruction.

Thank You, Lizzie Bennet

Lizzie, I need you right now more than ever. Right now, when I’m teetering on the 5 edge because injury and circumstances tell me the lies that I am useless, helpless, incapable. The lies become the stories we tell ourselves, as Brene Brown would say.

Laugh with me, Lizzie. Remind me how small I really am, and how helpless we all are in the eye of the One who gives us our daily breath. When we 5’s recognize that smallness, Lizzie, it’s freeing. You’d think it would be the opposite, but we both know better.

Remind me that we spend too much time heeding the lies about who we are and too little enjoying others for who they are.

Lizzie Bennet, you are a masterpiece, and I’m grateful for having to read characters who change us, often by being like us.

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