Proud? Or Just Not Ashamed

an accessible parking sign on a post, with a chain attached to it

When is it right to be proud? 

Is it ever right?

We can take a pride in our work, our appearance or be proud of our children, but is it right?

The Bible talks about pride as a sin, but where is the line between pride being good or bad?

Taking a pride in something is trying to do our best, being proud of someone is appreciating who they are or what they are achieving.

Being proud is different; we put ourselves at the centre of our world, what we do is done in our own strength and we congratulate ourselves on doing well. 

Humility however is the opposite. We see God as the centre of our lives and our world. What we do, we do in His strength. We press ourselves into Him and rely on Him to be the constant presence in our being.

There are a few diversities that have a ‘Pride Day’, not just the LGBTQIA+ community who you will have noticed have June as their Pride Month.

The month of July is ‘Disability Pride Month’ and is only about disability. (There are intersectionalities with other diversities and disability, but the month is primarily and distinctly celebrating disability).

The pride movement is American, but not all of it has been picked up in the UK. Disability pride especially has a very low profile, and unlike other pride months it won’t be featured widely on TV, the radio or in the press. Some disabled people will talk about it a lot (mainly to other disabled people) and some large businesses will use the month for virtue signalling whilst doing absolutely nothing about the issues of ableism that exist in our nation.

I’ll be honest, I struggle with the ‘Pride’ label for celebrating disability. I am not ‘proud’ of being disabled, but I am not ashamed of it either. It’s who I am. It has shaped who I am today along with my faith and my ministry.

It took years for me to agree to using a wheelchair because I didn’t want people to pity me. I often refer to it as being too ‘proud’ to do what I needed to do. I still have my moments of hating my chair when yet another person gives me that pitying look, along with the eyebrows of compassion whilst slowly shaking their head. A look that always comes with a tut and the unspoken ‘you poor thing’. 

In those moments of being seen as a tragedy I am certainly not feeling the pride of being disabled!

I’m often described as ‘wheelchair bound’ (a phrase I am not alone in hating). There are no ropes or duct tape strapping me in, so nothing is ‘binding’ me there. I’m actually freer using wheels, not bound.

There’s been a lot of comment in the press about the queen refusing to use a wheelchair in public, and the ‘horror’ of Elton John ‘resorting’ to using one when he flew into the UK for the Jubilee.  The queen was congratulated for not giving in and Elton was slated for doing the opposite. On social media, many wheelchair users were just a little unkind about the queen’s refusal to be seen in public in a wheelchair. But given what I’ve been saying above, I can totally understand why!

Using any mobility device, especially a wheelchair, is seen as weak or being ‘less than’. Many able bodied people see using a wheelchair as ‘giving in’ instead of fighting the need for it….because standing on two legs is the only ‘normal’ way to be…apparently.

When so many people look down on us (literally and figuratively), you can forgive the queen for not wanting to use a wheelchair in public.

I long for the day when using wheels is acceptable.

This disability pride month, I will be humble, pressing into God for my strength, my wisdom and grace.

And, I will NOT be ashamed of my disabilities.

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