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The Problem With Pride and Shame

May 25, 2015

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Pride and shame will kill you and your spirit. This I know to be true. And it does not matter the circumstance. These two emotions have the ability to create chaos in your life, from your health, to your job and dating. These two will lead you down a path that adds absolutely no value to your life. It's like this: For years, I kept my HIV status a secret because I didn't want to be judged. I was more afraid of what people thought of me, over and above trying to live my best life with HIV.

Shame dictated all of my behavior. For example, I didn't read about HIV because I didn't want anyone to catch me reading literature about HIV and draw the conclusion that I was HIV positive. This behavior left me in a state of ignorance about the disease. By the time I transitioned to AIDS, I had no freaking idea what was happening to me. Honestly, I didn't even understand what a T-cell count was. By then, I had been going to the doctor for almost five years and had never bothered to ask or read on my own. I was living in an abysmal state. Even after it became clear that I needed to understand more about HIV, I would hide the AIDS treatment magazines deep in my handbag. Once home, I would keep them out of eyesight. I put more energy into shit that had no positive outcome on my life, but only added stress and misery. I was focused on the wrong thing.

My health was failing and I didn't have the courage to save myself. I allowed shame and pride to hold me captive. For sure, I was a complete and total mess. I was afraid to seek all the help I needed for the best outcome because of my captivity to the least important, less relevant things of all.


Over the years, I've allowed shame and pride to dictate my path, which also dictated the outcome. This has been true for my health, my lifestyle and also my relationships. How long have you continued to hang out with your group long past its value to your life? How often do you ask yourself: Why the fuck do I keep hanging with this group, or person, when I feel more pain than joy every time we are together? But nonetheless, you stay locked into the madness because you don't want to be called the "trouble maker." So you make face value peace with your presence, but the inside of you feels like it's under attack over and over again.

Yep. How many women have gone to the altar despite the fact that their soul told them over and over again that this was the wrong path? It does not feel good, but you get more and more locked in, out of pride and shame and before you know it you are in a marriage that is chipping away at your very core. Once, I stayed in a relationship hoping that he would marry me and when it became clear that he was never going to marry me, I continued to stay because my pride didn't want to admit to the outside world that I had wasted my pretty year in and year out.

I can give many more examples of how we allow pride and shame rule over and above making the best decision for our life at that moment in time. I'm so glad that I've turned that chapter in my life. I'm at such a good place. I'll continue to say it over and over again, I like who I have become. I mean really like me, who I am, what I do or don't do and even how I do it. I've been liberated from people's opinions of me, but I've also been liberated from the negative committee in my head. I have euthanized that bitch.

Today, I live from the place of my soul, not my head. Let me tell you, the head will create more problems for you than your soul ever will. The head will have you married to a man with two children and a dog and brotha man ain't thought past your vagina. The head will make you buy a car your paycheck cannot afford. It will make you stay in a relationship that sucks the very life out of you. Yep, the head will make you think you are in a relationship with a man who has clearly told you that he is not in a relationship with you, for real, for real. The head will mess you up so bad, that you miss the blessings that God has for you. Yep, God always gives us what we need; it's the head that tells us that it's not enough, or you want it in a different package.

I want to utilize everything God gives me for my journey. I will never look a gift horse in the mouth. God has arranged the universe in such a way that everything works in your favor; even the fucked up, in the end, will be a footstool to a better you. Remember, the Bible says that the rejected stone became the cornerstone. That's real. I've lived that in my own life.

Today, I'm not letting anything interfere with me living my best life. I take what I have to work with and use it for my good, without the burden of the judge and jury that lives in my head or on Facebook. For example, everyone knows my finances have been nothing other than scarce these last five years.

I've stopped bitching about it because I honestly haven't missed a meal, even when the refrigerator has been bare. It's like this, about a month ago, my case worker suggested that I apply for the food pantry. Yep, it's been that bad. And without any hesitation I said yes. And when I get approved, I'm going to put on my red lipstick and walk right in that place and get me and Chloe food.

I'm not confused that God has arranged everything in my favor to get me to what's next. The Bible says that God will provide your every need. I've concluded that my soul wants me to be here to do the work that I was called to do and I'm listening loud and clear. So, shame, pride and the judgments that come with it has been put to rest. Your soul is pleading with you to live YOUR best life, not the life your head made you believe or the life that others deem appropriate, but the best life that God designed just for you. Listen to your soul, it will point you in the right direction.

Post Script: Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes!

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: shamane ( jamaica) Thu., Aug. 13, 2015 at 8:47 pm UTC
you are awesome. i was struggling with this problem and it was giving me hard time with this
and because i am nurse i was afraid of someone finding out that i could not live my life and i started to get sick from worrying and fear hoping that noone will find out what and or watching people face to see if they might or if they look at funny i am freaking out and just sending my children and teir life a living hell so i thank for being brave to post your story so i know i am not the only feeling and showing
what my chidren having been telling me mom stop being an ass and enjoy your life because the people you are worrying about even aint thinking about and living their life so you need to live yours so again thank thank you and many thanks
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Comment by: Seer Clearly (Denver, CO) Thu., Jul. 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm UTC
Thanks, Rae. When it comes to HIV, there is a bigger truth about pride and shame that you didn't mention in your blog. It's about blame. Nobody wants to feel shame, so they project it outwards, onto others. That's called shame. Then they can tell themselves they're ok and feel proud about it. Pride covers shame. So where there's pride, there's shame. Blame relieves shame. So where there's shame there's blame.

How does this hit the gay community? It hits dead center with HIV stigmatization. Stigmatization is just another word blaming. How many gay men have I seen or heard saying that they won't have sex with a poz person? Or -what many won't admit- they won't even associate with one? It's really about making the poz person responsible for their own HIV prevention, just another form of blaming.

So when you think you are full of pride and not feeling any shame, look for where you are blaming. If you're blaming, you're just not admitting you feel shame.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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