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Qualities to Cultivate II

Patience and Humility

Working steadily brings us to the virtue of patience. Patience with one’s failures and with the gradual element of progress. Impatience is an attribute of youth. A child does not easily accept his weaknesses, and when he wants to change something, he feels it must happen overnight. Conversely, healthy self-acceptance (which is quite different from the currently propagated indulgence of one’s weaknesses) means doing one’s very best, while calmly accepting oneself as the weak and often failing little person one is. In other words, self-acceptance stands for realism with respect to the self, for humility.

Humility is central to the mature personality. It is an objective reality that each human person has his frailities and often considerable imperfections, psychological as well as moral. To imagine oneself a hero is childish thinking; consequently, it is childish to live a tragic role — otherwise formulated, to do so would constitute a lack of humility. Karl Stern asserted: “The so-called ‘inferiority complex’ and true humility are two opposites” (1951, 97). Exercising the virtuous habit of humility strongly combats neurosis. And practicing self-humor, a means of seeing the relativity of the infantile ego and challenging its claim of being important, cna be regarded as an exercise in humility.

Inferiority complexes are usually companied by heightened superiority feelings in some area or other. The childish ego tries to prove its worth; not being able to accept its alleged inferiority, it is carried away by self-pity. Children are by nature ego-centered and thus feel important, the center of the world. Therefore, they are inclined to (infantile, because they are children) pride. In a sense, in any inferiority complex lies an element of hurt pride insofar as the inner child cannot accept his (perceived) inferiority. This makes the ensuing efforts at overcompensation understandable. (“Actually, I am special, better than the rest.”) This in turn explains the lack of humility in neurotic self-affirmation, role-playing, and in the tendency to be the center of attention and sympathy. Deeply hurt self-esteem is even akin to delusions of grandeur.

Many homosexuals, male as well as female, demonstrate overcompensatory arrogance. From their feelings of inferiority, their childhood complex of “not belonging”, they developed airs of superiority: “I am not one of you; actually I am better than you, special. I have a superior nature: I am specially gifted, specially sensitive. Specially tragic.” The way to adopting the superior roles has sometimes been paved by special attention and valuing from a parent, usually, in homosexuals, the opposite-sex parent. The boy who was mother’s favourite or admired son is likely to develop ideas of superiority, as will the girl whose head has been turned by her father’s special attention and praise. Arrogance in many homosexuals can be traced to their tender years.

In combination with feelings of inferiority, arrogance makes such homosexuals vulnerable to criticisms and easily insulted. Men and women with a homosexual complex who have decided that their desires are “natural” often succumbs to an impulse to equate their being different with being superior. For, in the last analysis, they do not consider themselves equal to “common” heterosexuals, but superior to them. Not only is it theoretically true that these homosexuals are inspired by pride in reversing what is unnatural and natural, in calling right what is wrong, but their pride is also visible in their whole behavior. “I was the King”, an ex-homosexual once said of his former lifestyle. They are vainglorious, narsissistic in demeanor and clothing; some even border on megalomania. Their arrogance blinds them to many values, and certainly to the insight that they are but pitiable children, devoid of wisdom.

Learning humility is liberating. It is done by discovering thoughts, expressions, and impulses of vanity, arrogance, superiority, self-congratulation, and boasting, as well as hurt pride and unacceptance of well-intentioned criticisms — and by refuting such thoughts, mildly satirizing them, or otherwise rejecting them. It is done by building a new self-image, that of the real self, who indeed has capabilities, but capabilities that are limited, and who himself is on the whole but an average, modest human being, nothing very special.

GERARD J.M. VAN DEN AARDWEG, PH.D.
The Battle for Normality (1997) Ignatius Press: San Francisco

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