The newest addition to my family is a Patterdale Terrier named Django. With a name like that, it's no surprise that I'm fascinated by Quentin Tarantino's art. He's a master at his craft. His movies are some of the most violent and gritty that have ever been made, but also some of the most provocative.
Tarantino's films show us the genius of how mundane conversation can lead to brilliant insight. Take Kill Bill II, for example. The head of a league of assassins, a guy named Bill philosophizes with his favorite protege who is seeking to kill him (Bill) to get revenge for taking her daughter and nearly killing her on her wedding day. The topic of conversation: superheroes and Superman.
“Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race,” Bill says. He explains that most superheroes, like Batman and Spider-man, weren't born that way. They have to put on their “suits” to become who they are. But Superman is who he is. He doesn't have an alter ego who is a superhero. He is a different race altogether and his alter ego is the weak, cowardly, and bumbling Clark Kent. Superman's false identity is an indictment against the whole human race, according to Bill.
I used to believe that everyone wanted to be a hero, that given the right opportunity every man would rise to the challenge. But my experience tells me the opposite.
Some of us would rather be Clark Kent, eager to avoid conflictand especially danger.
Still, there are a lot of guys eager to put on the cape and boots. But most usually fail to deliver despite their best heroic efforts. What keeps some guys behind the desk and prevents others from becoming heroes is actually the same thing: their own pride.
Pride is a counterfeit super-human strength that attempts to mask our weak, cowardly, and bumbling selves.
Pride twists our understanding of heroism, so that we either avoid becoming true heroes or believe we can become heroes on our own. At its core, pride is worship of the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. Pride is undue focus on the self which prevents us from ever rescuing anyone, especially ourselves.
Pride expresses itself in multiple ways:
Self-pity masquerades as super-sonic hearing. Men with this kind of pride see their lives as perpetually too hard and their schedules as too busy. They are so bombarded by the noise of their own constant suffering and endless struggle that they can't focus on anyone else.
Guys that show their pride in this way wouldn't mind being Superman, if it meant they could stay put in their own fortress of solitude and behind their bullet proof chests. By building up defenses and walls, they think they're becoming invulnerable. But they're really driven by fear. They don't want to be disappointed by people, so they disengage. Their low expectations of others prevents them from enjoying deep friendship.
People who suffer from self-pity and self-protection aren't interested in influencing others for their good. They're only interested in protecting the good they each have.
This kind of prideful man refuses to trust anyone because he believes that “if it's going to be, it's up to me.” He feels he's got to constantly prove himselfthat his identity is always on the line, and that if he has to depend on others, then his masculinity is compromised. He may do a lot of heroic things, but he is far too concerned with his own glory to be a hero. He's not interested in joining the community of other leader-heroes.
Most of us think of self-righteousness horizontally. When others think they are better than we are and make a point of letting us know it, we describe them as “self-righteous.” But self-righteousness also has a vertical dimension; people think that all their good deeds will justify them and make them right before God.
Every new situation, every danger that he confronts, he's going to have to get it right because being right is all he has. Being right is his righteousness, the way he recommends himself before God and the way he gains esteem before his friends. He's not really trying to be someone else's hero. He's trying to be his own herotrying to never let himself down because his life is dependent upon always being right.
The self-righteous man thinks he has x-ray vision because he can identify the sins of others. But he can't see that the bad news is actually worse. He can't see or understand his own darkness. He can't see what lies within his own heart.
Pride is the kryptonite within every man.