Deliver Me from Phusio

July 18, 2018

 

I’m struggling today with a half-remembered question: So, who retired and made YOU the boss? Or, who died and made YOU the queen?

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–stunned disbelief, 1972

Who made YOU so important?  Who made YOU superior to others?

 

In other words, someone, in someone else’s opinion, has grown too big for his or her britches, and needs a bit of deflating. Someone’s got an irritating case of hubris. Remember that word from high school English class?

 

I remember hubris, but not very precisely. Seems various flawed heroes had it.  For your sake and mine I visit the dictionary.  Word-nerd report: Hubris means ‘overweening pride or self-confidence.’ Great.  Now I have to look up overweening! For all our sakes, I press on. Overweening means ‘arrogant, presumptuous, exaggerated, immoderate.’

 

Okay, so now I’m going to lay another word on you.  Phusio.  What???  It’s Greek, and it means inflated, puffed up with air. (It literally means bellows–good visual!) The first time I heard this word, I experienced a sharp pang of recognition, and I made a wee prayer:

 

 When too full of pride I grow

Deliver me from phusio.

 

One might think the ‘opposite’ of phusio is humility. It’s not. The opposite of phusio is deflation.  Think helium balloon on the ground, its glory departed. Think torn bellows, no longer useful for tending fires.  Humility is what you work on AFTER someone or some circumstance has punctured your pride.  Humility is the better way of being you build AFTER your house has collapsed. I have found this to be a lifelong cycle!

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-POTUS, for ten inflated seconds

John Philip Newell writes this:

 

Jesus … taught the strength of humility, of being close to the humus, close to the Ground from which we and all things come. The humblest, says Jesus, are “the greatest” (Matthew 18:4). Not that following Jesus’ path of humility is straightforward. Constantly there is tension—the tension of discerning how to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, how to honor the heart of another nation as we honor our own homeland, how to revere the truths of another wisdom tradition as we cherish our own inheritance, how to protect the life of other species as we guard the sanctity of our own life-form. Jesus knew such tension. He was tempted to use his wisdom and his power of presence to serve himself, to lift himself up over others. But to the tempter, he says, “Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10). Away with the falseness of believing that I can love myself and demean others.

I am pleased to think it’s still okay for a shy girl to fly her flag once a year, ever mindful of the march of time I see in the mirror. I don’t feel it takes away from anyone else.   Humility: not taking up too much space, nor too little.

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