Taking People, Pride and Dignity Seriously: June 2022

Luisa Madrid's photo of Queens Pride Parade in Queens, New York City. (June 3, 2018) via the La Guardia and Wagner Archives.
(From Luisa Madrid, La Guardia and Wagner Archives; used w/o permission.)
(Queens Pride Parade; Queens, New York City (2018))

My news feed tells me it’s Pride Month. Or LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Wikipedia’s page implies that the correct term is LGBT pride.

Decades of experience, spanning McCarthyism’s dying gasps and the efflorescence of political correctness, suggest that I’ll offend someone: no matter what I say or how I say it.

So I’ll start by saying why I don’t think my native language, English, is perfect.

If it was, “pride” would arguably have single, specific meaning.

On the other hand, I could argue that English is wonderfully flexible; affording its users an abundance of nuanced denotations and connotations. And a metaphorical mine field of muddled meanings.

Take “pride,” for example.

  • Pride (Merriam-Webster)
    • inordinate self-esteem
    • a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
    • delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship
    • proud or disdainful behavior or treatment
    • a company of lions

And that’s just a selection from one dictionary.

Since I’m a Catholic, I think pride is a bad idea. And, since “pride” has a whole mess of meanings, I’d better explain what I mean.

Dignity, Good Intentions and Bad Ideas

Rocky Kolberg's view of the Mount St. Helens mushroom cloud, taken 35 miles from the eruption. (May 18, 1980)
(From Rocky Kolberg, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Putting “little less than a god” in perspective. Mount St. Helens eruption. (May 18, 1980))

For starters, self-respect can be reasonable.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls that sort of self-respect “dignity.” (Catechism, 357, 1700, 1701-1709, 2261, 2331-2336)

I can think about “pride” in the Catholic sense of “dignity” without pretending that humans and humanity are garbage.

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness….”
(Genesis 1:26)

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?
“Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor.
“You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet….”
(Psalms 8:57)

As I’ve said before, we’re pretty hot stuff. We really are “little less than a god:” with all the power, authority and responsibility that goes along with our nature.

But “little less than a god” isn’t God. Not even close. And that gets me back to pride.

Pride as a Capital Sin: Dignity on Steroids

Studio Foglio's Mr. Squibbs, used w/o permission.Pride tops the list of seven capital sins: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.

They’re “capital” because they generally lead to more bad attitudes and behavior. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1866)

“Lust,” by the way, in this context, isn’t the same as experiencing human sexuality. (Catechism, 2331-2379)

It’s a “…disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure….” (Catechism, 2351)

And “pride,” again in this context, is a disordered attitude:

PRIDE: One of the seven capital sins. Pride is undue self-esteem or self-love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God. (1866)
(Catechism, Glossary)

This sort of pride is hubris: dignity on steroids, self-confidence above and beyond the call of reason. I’ve talked about that, mad scientists, and using our brains, before. Often.

A key word here, I think, is “disordered.”

Love, Respect and Making Sense

Detail of photo, St. Peter's Square, Vatican City. (2015) via Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Vatican State, used w/o permission.
(From the Holy See, used w/o permission.)
(St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City. (2015))

Wanting respect is reasonable. I think folks who support Gay/LGBT Pride Month for that reason have a point.

I don’t agree with much of what’s said on the gay/LGBT pride issue.

But I won’t rant and rave, partly because I think that’d make no sense. And partly because of something I’ll get back to.

Basically, I should love God, love my neighbor, and see everybody as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism, 1789)

That’s everybody. No exceptions.

Loving and hating my neighbor isn’t possible. Not at the same time.

If I was a perfect person, living in a perfect world, loving each of my neighbors would be easy. I’m not, and this isn’t, so it’s not. Easy, that is.

But I have to try, anyway.

Like I said, love matters. That includes caring about other folks.

For much of my life, happily, I’ve known folks who care about my health and well-being.

Sometimes their love meant telling me that something I do is a bad idea. I didn’t enjoy the experience. Not at the time.

Good Intentions

An anonymous artist's rendering of the Book of Sirach, first chapter, German translation. (1654) via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.Loving someone by ‘being nice’ won’t turn a bad idea into a good idea. A few things are bad ideas, no matter what.

Murder, killing an innocent person, is one of them. It’s a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Genesis 4:10; Catechism, 2268-2279)

My gluttony, a disordered interest in food, doesn’t define my personal identity. But it’s an issue I deal with. It’s also a bad idea.

My wife knows that I like food ‘way too much. She’s told me that it’s a bad idea. A doctor said pretty much the same thing.

I didn’t like hearing that, but I agree.

My wife is a wise woman, so she has been working with me to change my eating and exercise habits. I haven’t consistently cooperated, but I’m learning.

But let’s say that she didn’t want to make me feel bad, and kept quiet. Or, worse yet, encouraged me to keep eating. That might have felt good, for a while.

I’d still have the weight and health issues that my behavior caused. Lying to me would have been a bad idea.

So, I think, would labeling me a wretched glutton, and saying that God hates me.

I don’t think that’d a reasonable response to anyone’s undesirable behavior. Besides, I’d be concerned about anyone who’d enjoy that sort of treatment.1

Bottom line? Although I’m responsible for what happens after I act, or don’t act; that responsibility may be reduced or nullified, due to “…ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors….” (Catechism, 1731-1735, 1789)

On the other hand, ‘I meant well’ won’t turn a bad idea into a good idea. (Catechism, 1789)

Gluttony and Social Stigma

Human Genome wall for SC99's photo: A fat mouse and a normal mouse.I talked about respect and dignity earlier. Basically, I’m obliged to show respect for the dignity of each person.

That seems reasonable.

Gluttony isn’t generally considered a good idea in today’s America, but my appearance doesn’t make me a pariah.

That’s a bit odd, or maybe not so much.

My weight isn’t what’s odd. It’s simple cause-and-effect. I’ve eaten too much, and not exercised enough. My obesity probably isn’t just caused by gluttony, by the way. It’s complicated, and that’s another topic.

What’s odd is not being shunned, or worse, because of my weight. I’m pretty sure that fitness fiends wouldn’t use me as a role model, not a positive one. But they’re easy to avoid or ignore.

The point is that I haven’t spent a lifetime dealing with folks who seemed determined to fill me with guilt and shame. I’ll grant that some health fanatics can be a tad overbearing.

That’s what’s odd, since obesity hasn’t been a status symbol since the Renaissance. Current American culture views gluttony, an obvious cause of obesity, as a bad idea. The attitude isn’t entirely wrong.

But I don’t remember running into anyone who attacked fat folks for ‘religious’ reasons. Not with the hatred I’ve seen expressed against folks with unusual sexual desires. Why that is, I don’t know.

Seven Sins

Stradanus' illustration for Dante's Inferno, Canto 6: gluttony. (1587)Gluttony is one of the seven capital sins. I mentioned them before. So is “sloth,” which isn’t laziness.

Not in this context, at any rate.

The ‘seven capital sins’ sloth is acedia, a lack of spiritual effort, refusing to ‘work out my salvation.’2 (Philippians 2:12, 3:20; Catechism, 1949, 2094, 2733)

“Pride” again, is self-esteem above and beyond the call of reason.

Humility, acknowledging reality, is pride’s antidote.3

One reality I must acknowledge is that letting my desires and impulses control what I eat is a bad idea.4 No amount of positive self-talk will change that.

Neither would throwing myself into the fat acceptance movement’s silly side. I’ll admit that I might enjoy organizing a ‘fat pride day’ protest. For the wrong reasons. There’s a sardonic streak in me that’s not good. And that’s yet another topic.

Acting Like Love Matters: A Good Idea

Etching by B. Picart, after C. Le Brun: 'A frontal outline and a profile of faces expressing anger. (1713)Condemning someone whose impulses aren’t like mine seems silly.

Self-righteous indignation at the actions of other sinners seems imprudent, at best. My own track record is far from spotless.

I think homosexual acts are bad idea.5 I emphatically also must think that everyone deserves respect and reasoned compassion; not unjust discrimination. (Catechism, 2357-2359)

Imprudent over-corrections of past injustices are, I think, understandable. But as I’ve said, good intentions won’t turn bad ideas into good ones.

Nothing I say or do can solve every problem we face. I am equally powerless to undo injustices like murders at the Pulse nightclub in 2016.6

But I can suggest that love is a good idea. So is acting like love matters.

Nostalgia, Tradition and Traditions

Unknown artist's illustration of Chickenman, Dick Orkin's fictional not-so-superhero; who opposed 'crime and/or evil' on radio in the 1960s.Even if I could, I wouldn’t take America back to the ‘good old days’ before 1965, 1954, 1933, 1848,7 or some other imagined ‘Golden Age.’

Today’s America is far from perfect, too.

That leaves one direction: forward.

Not yearning for a bygone era may seem odd, coming from a Catholic.

I’ve been asked why I think my beliefs matter in today’s world.

The question makes sense, given all-too-common attitudes.

Some Christians act as if nostalgia and faith were synonyms.

Sometimes I run into a Catholic who says Vatican II ruined everything. Some of these folks formed their very own little churches, convinced that they’re the only Catholics left.

I wasn’t a Catholic before Vatican II, so my childhood memories include pleasant experiences in a Protestant church.

Even if I was a ‘cradle Catholic,’ I hope I’d have the good sense to see a difference between Tradition and tradition.

Tradition with a capital “T” is the living message of the Gospel, maintained and passed along through the millennia. It doesn’t change. (Catechism, 75-83)

Some of our traditions, lower-case-“t,” are important, too. But they’re not set in stone. Sometimes they stop being useful. Then it’s time to change or drop them. This is okay. (Catechism, 83)

Moving Forward

Screenshot from a 20th Century Fox trailer for 'Gentlemen_Prefer_Blondes.' Marilyn Monroe and men in formal suits and vests. (1953) via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.America in the 1950s was a ‘Golden Age’ for some folks.

I remember the trailing edge of their ‘good old days,’ and my memory’s pretty good.

I remember when someone had to look more-or-less like me to get a decent job, and when “she’s smart as a man” was supposed to be a compliment.

The ‘good old days’ — weren’t. And I thank God they aren’t coming back.

Many long-overdue reforms which began in my youth haven’t turned out as I had hoped. But on the whole, I like living in today’s America. It’s not perfect. But that’s true of every society, today or in the past.

I must do what I can to help make tomorrow’s America, and world, better. (Catechism, 1913-1916, 2239)

There isn’t much I can do to change my nation, much less the world. But I can do something about myself.

Not Easy, But a Good Idea

NASA's image of Earth, from the Rosetta spacecraft's narrow-angle camera from a distance of 633 000 kilometers (393,300 miles). (November 12, 2009)Changing the world starts inside me, with an ongoing “inner conversion.” (Catechism, 1886-1889)

Unless I act as if I think people matter, I can hardly expect folks to take me seriously.

Not when I talk about love, justice, charity, and respect for “the transcendent dignity of man.” (Catechism, 1928-1942, 2419-2442)

And I certainly shouldn’t imagine that I’m one of the “righteous” few. Life isn’t that simple. Neither are issues we’re dealing with.

“…Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity….

“…A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners….”
(“Visit to the Joint Session of the United States Congress,” Pope Francis8 (September24, 2015))

I’m Not Normal

Brian H. Gill. (March 17, 2021)Earlier, under the Love, Respect and Making Sense heading, I said that “I won’t rant and rave” about gay/LGBT pride issues “partly because of something I’ll get back to.”

Here’s where I get back to that.

As I said a couple months back, I don’t do “conventional.” Small wonder, considering what’s shown up in my medical records:

  • ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type
  • ASD: Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cluster A personality disorder
  • GAD: Generalized anxiety disorder
  • PDD: Persistent depressive disorder
  • PTSD: Post traumatic stress disorder

I’m not even conventionally unconventional. Take Cluster A personality disorder and me, for example.

Almost Fitting Into a Cluster, But Not Quite

An image from Brian H. Gill's brain scans in 2018.Mayo Clinic says Cluster A personality disorder comes in three flavors:9

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

I come under the schizotypal type, characterized by:

  • Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior
  • Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name
  • Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
  • Social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships
  • Indifferent, inappropriate or suspicious response to others
  • “Magical thinking” — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
  • Belief that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you

I can see it.

“Peculiar dress,” not so much. Unless you count my beard and hair.

Beliefs? I’m an American who was raised as a Protestant and became a Catholic: so, yeah. That’s a bit peculiar. Plus, I talk like a college professor. Sometimes like a ’60s or ’70s stereotype interior decorator.

“Odd perceptual experiences?” Not the hallucinatory sort. Except back when I was recovering from losing one of our kids. I kept hearing my computer’s hard drive rattling, when it wasn’t; and that’s yet again another topic.

“Flat emotions?” Oh, boy, no: anything but. Inappropriate, maybe.

Social anxiety and all that? My life might have been less interesting if I had been plagued by social anxiety. More topics.

The rest: indifferent or otherwise odd responses to others?

Maybe I’ve exhibited an indifferent response, somewhere in the last seven decades. But not, I think, often. My emotional responses tend to be on a scale from ‘intense’ to ‘extreme.’

Odd, maybe. I have had to learn, for example, that many folks take politics and politicians very seriously — even when I see a darkly humorous side.

“Magical thinking” and imagining that I’m getting secret messages? No. Not happening.

Fitting a Profile

Illustration of 'icepick' lobotomy, from Dr. Walter Freenan II's 'Psychosurgery in the Treatment of Mental Disorders and Intractable Pain.' (1950)We’ve learned a great deal about psychiatric and personality disorders since my childhood and youth.

Folks with issues like mine often get spotted early and treated these days.

Sometimes successfully.

I wasn’t. Not until I was into middle age.

Which may be just as well, since lobotomies were still somewhat fashionable in my ‘good old days,’10 which is another reason I don’t miss them, and that’s still another topic.

Then there’s what a career counselor asked me, back in the ’70s.

I’d been having my usual frustrating experience, being one of the 99-plus out of a hundred or so job applicants who didn’t get hired. I’ve since learned that my affect or affect display isn’t squarely on the 50th percentile, which didn’t help.

“Affect display” is psychobabble for verbal and non-verbal displays of emotion.11 I’m a very emotional man, and — well, apparently I don’t consistently act normal.

Anyway, back to frustrations, me, and a career counselor. We’d been discussing incentives I might offer a potential employer, including government funding.

He asked me if I was homosexual. Turns out, the question made sense: during the ’70s in the Upper Midwest, at any rate. For one thing, bias against homosexuals made — I think it was still called affirmative action — an option.

For another, I fit the profile.

I’m creative, articulate and not obsessed with sports. I can’t swear, some four decades later, to “articulate” being in the mix. But I’m pretty sure that talking like I was at least a little smart was part of the reason I fit the homosexual profile.

But, despite fitting the profile, I’m not homosexual. Which is no great virtue. I’ve got issues, lots of issues: but not that particular one.

Learning that nice, normal folks might perceive me as homosexual, however, explained a few otherwise puzzling interactions I’d had.

Odd Urges and Malignant Virtue

'I'd force peace right down their bloodthirsty throats.' Deacon Mushrat in Walk Kelly's Pogo. (1952)And it’s helped me both appreciate the experiences of folks who do deal with odd urges, and sympathize with those who’ve tangled with the malignant virtue of self-appointed guardians of society.

“Malignant virtue” is a phrase I first ran across in a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, although it’s been around at least since the 1860s.

“There are times, Charles, when even the unimaginative decency of my brother and the malignant virtue of his wife appear to me admirable.”
(Lord Peter Wimsey, in “Murder Must Advertise,” Dorothy L. Sayers (1933))

“…counting every thing which the most malignant virtue could shrink from, I have culled eighty lines. Eighty lines out of nine thousand!…”
(“The Good Gray Poet. A Vindication,” William Douglas O’Connor (1866))

And that’s — you guessed it — even more topics.

Maybe most Americans, by now, realize that a man can be smart, creative, not experience withdrawal if deprived of daily sports news highlights — and have heterosexual orientation despite all that.

Then again, maybe not. I’ve gotten the impression that sincerely-held beliefs don’t fade easily, no matter how wacky they are.

So I won’t hope to change anyone’s mind about good guys and bad guys, neo-Nazis and pinko scum, or whatever.

“Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity” — Makes Sense to Me

New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer C. M. Stieglitz's photo:Robert Thompson and Benjamin J. Davis: accused of improper political views. (1949)But I will suggest that maybe, just maybe, folks who deal with disorders are still folks: real people, not monsters or cardboard-cutout bogeymen.

Even if my background and personality didn’t make the idea seem reasonable, accepting folks who aren’t perfect comes with being a Catholic.

“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
(Catechism, 2358)

I’m about as sure as I can be about anything, that relabeling a disorder as ‘normal’ won’t make everything better.

Then there’s the matter of conflating ‘normal,’ ‘good,’ and ‘acceptable.’ And that’s a can of worms I’ll leave for another time. Can of worms? Make it a barrel.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before, and probably will again:

1 Disorders my culture recognizes:

2 Acedia and other issues:

3 Humility, in the Catholic sense, is acknowledging reality and giving God due credit; I’ve talked about that before:

4 Experiencing desires and emotions is part of being human; so is thinking, or should be:

5 Insights from:

6 As song said, “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong:”

7 Assorted recent milestones — or — the end of civilization as they knew it:

8 About freedom:

9 Clusters A through C, mostly B:

10 It slices! It dices! It wins a Nobel Prize!

11 Acting weird:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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