28c - Apotheosis - "Pride is not the opposite of shame, but it's source."

Before Iroh taught Zuko how to redirect lightning, he tried teaching him how to create it. However, after nearly blowing himself up multiple times, Iroh realized that his nephew was too emotionally conflicted to handle the practice.

“You must let go of your feelings of shame if you want your anger to go away.” Iroh told him.

“But I don’t feel any shame at all.” Zuko replied, “I’m as proud as ever.”

“Prince Zuko, pride is not the opposite of shame, but it’s source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”

Like most of us, Iroh had spent much of his life following the path set out for him. He didn’t even stop to question it until he lost his son to the cycle of violence that he himself perpetuated. I lost my marriage and two careers before I started to question all of my assumptions.

Typically, prideful people don’t learn from or lean on others because they think they know it all, or believe that they have to do it all themselves. Ironically, I earned just enough humility in my last round through the monomyth to think that I had a handle on pride. After all, I was humble enough to learn new things, especially once I got in with WFG. Likewise, I was humble enough to know that I had to rely on other people at times, and I let Andrea help me heal, and I listened to Lauren (occasionally) when she called me out for being brash. Still, I was not humble enough to have the strength needed to stand on my own; mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Thankfully, the gods were there to make sure I understood my deficiencies, for just as the car accident got me to stop moving and stay with my emotions, the slanderous attacked levied against me got me to reflect on my unrealized pride and unprocessed shame.

Now, while it’s true that I am more evolved than my slanderer in that I don’t need to hurt others so that a mob of lock-step ideologues would reward me with the calming reassurance of my moral “goodness”, I came to realize that I too was determining my self-worth by external methods, albeit much more valuable ones. Instead of looking to score social virtue points, I looked to my business endeavors as evidence of my own personal value, which of course caused everything I was trying to accomplish to fail. I couldn’t understand how at first, but then Lauren was kind enough to tell me directly that despite the good I was trying to do for my friends through WFG, no one wanted to talk to me because they felt like I only looked at them as a number. In other words, it was obvious to everyone that I was leveraging my personal relationships for practical use. But to be honest, I did this before WFG, too.

I have always wanted to be a hero, and heroes need people to save. Yes, I’ve developed throughout my journey, but it was always with the intent that I would defeat evil, and “fix” the world, and it’s not the first time I’ve felt this way. In the last round this defect was caused by simple, grandiose arrogance, but now as I go deeper into my unconscious mind, I see it for what it really is; the frustrated cries of a scared little boy, desperate for the gods to see him and forgive him.

Like Zuko, I have lived much of my life in a perpetual state of rage, just waiting for an excuse to let the fires of frustration within me loose. I spent my developing years, as well as a large swathe of time beyond my teens, spewing rhetoric that was antithetical to who I really was, which left me with a lot of intellectual and emotional scarring. Even after I discarded the stupid doctrines forced on me in my youth, I felt sad that I wasted so much time not being my authentic self, and I didn’t know how to express my sadness and shame in any form other than anger and pride. That anger came out in a variety of ways, and it seemed like alcohol was all I had to keep that rage from bubbling over onto my family. It didn’t work, which only made me more sad and more angry. I took these frustrations out on the world, looking to get into intellectual skirmishes with anyone who subscribed to Slave Morality, for no other reason than to prove myself better, and inflate my sense of pride. This was more than simple grandiosity, it was more than a primitive drive for dominance, it was my sad attempt to assert my personal value. My Shadow Warrior wanted to win at everything for the sake of winning, without once allowing me the time to pause and ask myself, “Who are you, and what do you want?”

Iroh Teaches Zuko Lightning:


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