One of the strangest experiences in my career as a writer has been writing for a welding company for about ten years.
I learned a lot about welding helmets, the latest welding machines, and the biggest trends in welding supplies and accessories. I logged untold hours on YouTube welding channels, analyzed the benefits of several different welding processes, and got to intimately know the websites of many leading brands in the industry.
In short, I was experienced in “talking shop” about welding without ever actually stepping into a welding shop. For all of the research I’d done into the processes and products that helped customers buy products, you really didn’t want me setting foot in a welding shop, striking an arc, and then afflicting two pieces of metal with it.
Since welding uses a lot of electricity and gives off plenty of sparks, it would have been a huge mistake for me to assume I had anything to offer in a welding shop.
For me to confuse hours of online research with the hard-earned dues paid by welders would have been misguided at best and probably quite prideful. In fact, any kind of online researcher who claims to be equal to, or superior to, an actual hands-on expert is most certainly quite prideful.
Yet, pride is hard to nail down. I wonder if we overlook it because we try to give someone the benefit of a doubt. “Well, he was wrong, but at least he meant well.” Or we may say, “He was just trying his best to be responsible by learning something new.”
But isn’t rejecting expertise inherently irresponsible and prideful?
In addition, perhaps we are so inundated with pride as a society that it’s almost impossible to spot. It’s just becoming the de facto way of living.
I can’t say for sure, but I do feel like I’m just swimming in an ocean of unidentified pride each time I walk into a store or coffee shop throughout the pandemic where people have refused to wear masks during a highly contagious airborne pandemic.
We could surely mention how science has been politicized and people are inundated by so much misinformation, but does any of that excuse the pride of thinking we know better than a doctor or researcher with decades of hands-on experience?
The past year or more have been especially galling for me because I’m surrounded each day by pastors, church volunteers, and devout Christians. They are eager to go out with their Bibles, but I have rarely seen any of them inside with masks on during some of the most highly contagious and highest rates of infection during the pandemic.
I surely understand the hesitancy to wear a mask when vaccination rates are high and local infection rates are low. I’m talking about resistance to masks, to say nothing of safe vaccines, during the most dire moments of emergency during the pandemic.
Would the prideful flaunting of a public health crisis count as a sin to these Christians? I doubt it, but why wouldn’t it? Isn’t it the very definition of pride to believe you know better than the experts in the medical field?
I can imagine the mask-resistant Baptists in my town would take a different view of things if I stepped into a biblical Hebrew class and told the professor that I had a better idea of how to translate a Psalm based on my year of biblical Hebrew twenty years ago.
How is that imagined pride of my Hebrew “prowess” any different from Christians imagining they know better than doctors and researchers giving the recommendations to wear a mask in an indoor space?
We are familiar with the teaching that pride comes before a fall, but in America today, pride also comes before sickness and even death if we continue to reject the guidance of experts who continue to be ignored by far too many.
I know first-hand that it’s unpleasant to face pride. Yet, considering the consequences of pride and believing anyone who has done some “online research” over an actual medical expert, the discomfort of confessing pride is way better than someone slowly suffocating to death while on a ventilator.
From that standpoint, wearing a mask indoors doesn’t seem like a huge risk or inconvenience for the sake of others.
With a constantly evolving pandemic, the guidance of medical experts may change over time. New information may be discovered, and our guidance will change.
If I change anything that I do, it will surely be done based on the consensus recommendations of doctors and medical researchers.
The thought of an internet-researching novice like me in the welding shop is bad enough for my own safety. I can’t imagine an internet-researching novice can do much better when it comes to public health recommendations during a pandemic.