Learning from Extremes by Ed Hirsch

Learning from Extremes: Pride and Humility by Ed Hirsch

 We might dismiss extremes as having nothing to do with us, but they present life lessons from which we can benefit without having to act them out. After all, they are simply acting out what is potential within all of us. They illuminate what we ourselves act out in less obvious ways.


Let’s consider the extreme of the person who wants to end their life. Imagine that they feel they have dishonored this gift of life in a major, unforgivable way. They might compare themselves to a simple flower, which seems such a natural and beautiful expression of life. In contrast, they see what a mess they have made of this life, including the people they have hurt so deeply.


First, let us acknowledge the good intention they have. They want to cancel this great error of their lives, in honor of the greater life purpose they have dishonored. Honoring this good intention, we can affirm that this negation of their life is a shadow of a higher order, which is to surrender themselves completely to what is called Higher Power. If they can do this, or if they are fortunate enough to have support to help them do this, then the one who seemed the lowest rises through virtue of humility.


Now let’s consider the opposite extreme of the person whose life seems to be exemplary. Through discipline and wisdom, they have followed the right path, have kept their life in balance, and serve the greater good. But let’s suppose, as an extreme example, that this person has fallen to the lure of pride. They have built a great self-image around being exemplary, worthy, superior, and they have come to serve that idol of their own making.


Now in whatever way such a person acts this out, perhaps in ways that are well concealed, they know in their own heart that they are betraying the virtues that had inspired their life and from all appearances seem to be the most balanced, falls through pride.


Perhaps you can see echoes of one or even both of these extremes in your own life. While this all might seem to be a sermon that could be preached from any pulpit, I want to give it a twist. And that is to live your life beyond self-images altogether, by living from the Heart of Life.

  Ed Hirsch, facilitates a weekly Presence group in Ashland and teaches a courses on Presence at OLLI adult Ed school  Contact him at presenceofone@yahoo.com

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