I am currently reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity in which he describes Pride as the worst sin, as there is no greater impediment between ourselves and others. It got me thinking: What would Jiu Jitsu be like if I were free of Pride?
What would it be like to enjoy the practice of this art without the need to uphold some belt rank, reputation, or technical superiority? What would it be like to see all the beauty of this art free of my own weakness?
Much of what drives our growth in Jiu Jitsu are our standards. But seeing how others are our only reference points within the art, it is all too natural to compare ourselves to our training partners. We unknowingly forge our loved ones into a measuring stick with which we define our self-worth.
But Pride measures itself relative to others: we can only be more because we have made others less. If we aren’t careful, we create subtle barriers between ourselves and our teammates which impede our collective efforts.
The better our training partners are the better we become. The more mistakes we make, the more we learn. The more we are pushed to areas of discomfort outside our commonly chosen techniques, the more we will grow. It is our training partners which continue to be our greatest assets.
I was recently submitted by my dear friend Luke. For the first time in recent memory, my immediate reaction was to praise my friend rather than chastise myself. I was genuinely happy that he submitted me. For him, because of his ever-increasing skills due to the tireless dedication he brings to his craft, and for me, because that submission was a valuable lesson that will improve my Jiu Jitsu.
But where was this joy in similar moments over the past nine years? I can only assume Pride had taken its place.
But not all Pride is bad.
Pride during the roll which allows you to hold yourself to the highest standard is good. Pride before or after the roll, however, is not. The Pride which results in our greatest effort is worthwhile. The Pride which is pleased with such effort, with chin up and chest out, whose self-praise impedes our praise of others, is not.
I never understood the presence of pride in myself until I enjoyed its absence. I think Pride can be a tool when used well, but an insidious master if left unchecked. The easiest way to witness your Pride is to observe your reaction to the Pride in others. We criticize the vanity in our fellow man only because it reminds us of our own.
I hope I continue to have mornings like yesterday, in which I am as grateful for my friend’s success as I am for the lesson it imparts, with all thoughts and emotions coming from a place of appreciation rather than aversion. This may not always be the case, but at least now I know where I am headed.
As Robert Frost said, “I have miles to go before I sleep.” Those miles have always separated who I am from where I am going, but at least now, thanks to a random Guillotine on a Thursday morning, I know the destination.