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Pushed around by Pride

Our narrative lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday is from Mark 6:17-29.  King Herod has John the Baptist in prison for speaking out against his marriage to his brother's wife.  Herod respected John and enjoyed hearing him speak, even though it made him feel guilty.  His wife on the other hand hated John for what he had said.

During a party Herod's wife's daughter danced for him, and he was so pleased with the performance that he offered her anything she wanted in front of the whole crowd.  After consulting with her mother, she asked for John's head on a platter.  Herod was distraught, but not wanting to displease the crowd, or tarnish his image as a man of his word, he had John killed and supplied his stepdaughter with the head of a prophet.

This story reminds us of what lengths we can sometimes go, to protect our pride.  Herod did not want to kill John, but had said he would give the girl anything she asked for.  He was left with a dilemma.  Would he follow his conscious?  Would he be a man of his word?  What should one do when faced with two competing values?  A life left un-examined will almost always choose the option that saves face when challenged with such a decision.  The more power one has, the more dangerous this can become.

When my daughter was young I remember shouting out threats of great consequences that I could never enforce to scare her away from various behaviors.  As she got a little older she started to push against those threats.  She had a look in her eye, she was challenging me to see if I would follow through.  I had heard the age old wisdom from other parents "If you say it, you have to do it, they need to know you mean business".  This is the same "wisdom" Herod was entrapped by.

It was around this time that I started working in wilderness therapy.  It was there that I learned another way.  The path of vulnerability.  I found out that you can admit that you misspoke, and that you said something that you either did not have the power to, or did not desire to follow through with.  The first time I did it, it was terrifying.  I was convinced the group of kids would discover I was a sham, that I had no power, and they would begin doing whatever they wanted after that.  I would lose control.  Instead, I gained their trust and respect.

I became a great advocate of the third way, the way of vulnerability.  I practiced it with my daughter and we became closer.  I taught other professionals to do it, and they found it changed their lives too.  God became a man, rejected and crucified, to show us that true power is found in vulnerability, it's time we start giving that advice and stop trying to protect our pride.


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