All the Zero Days

Going Fast vs. Going Far

There’s a quote that goes something like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That quote was in my head when I began last weekend’s 26-mile trek in southwest Virginia over Sinking Creek Mountain, Brush Mountain, and Dragon’s Tooth – my first “semi-solo” hike on the Appalachian Trail.

There’s another hiking axiom I’ve heard, as well. “Hike your own hike.” Ever since I started hiking again three years ago in 2014, I’ve struggled with hiking my own hike when I’m in a group of hikers. Sometimes, I am capable of keeping up with my companions, but more often I have a slower pace. My natural tendency is to think I should just go alone rather than hold anyone else back.

Fortunately, others don’t feel the same; on my first long distance hike from the Pennsylvania/Maryland border to Harper’s Ferry last fall, the group leader stayed at my pace while the others took the long miles in stride and out-paced us by at least a mile. He was happy to do it but I felt guilty almost every step of the way. He could have gone faster if he had left me alone. But I wouldn’t have made it over the mental hurdles that hiking alone would have thrown at me on that trip. I’ve had a lot more practice and conditioning since then, and I thought I could handle “alone” just fine this time.

So, this weekend I got a taste of both alone and together, and my ultimate lesson is that alone has a bitter aftertaste when it equals fast.

My plan was to meet my group (who had already been hiking since dawn Friday morning, and some of them since Wednesday) at the shelter where they planned to camp. The closest parking area was about three miles down the hill, which means I had to hike up three miles, alone, to the Sarver Shelter. (Side note: Google “Sarver Shelter” and you’ll find several stories about the ghost that supposedly haunts the ruins of this homestead.)

Those three miles up, alone, were lovely. I was truly hiking my own hike, getting a sense of my own natural pace, resting when I needed it without the shame I often feel at getting winded faster than the more seasoned hikers. I stopped and took photos at scenic overlooks, or interesting wildflowers, knowing I wasn’t irritating anyone with my camera. (I’ve been on hikes with people who do get irritated by that sort of thing, especially if it keeps them from maintaining their steady pace.) Being alone meant I wasn’t carrying the burden of someone else’s judgement.

However, I was carrying the extra unnecessary weight of something else – my own ego.

Three miles alone is very different than 16. And as often happens, there were aspects of my physical hike that mirrored the mental one. I was physically carrying my ego, in the form of a 2 lb, 1 oz bear vault. (That doesn’t count the weight of the food.)

Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain – another trail axiom. After three miles uphill on day one, I didn’t feel the pain. But after about seven miles on day two, I felt that pain for every one of the 10,000 steps I took to catch up with my group, alone.

Why on earth would I add two extra pounds to my gear? The reason made sense at the time; I didn’t want to hang a bear bag, which for me requires the help of other people. The canister would afford me complete freedom from waiting for everyone else to be awake to get my morning food. (Also, the last time I tried to be the one to get bear bags down, I cut off circulation in my finger. So it scares me.)

Thanks to the bear vault, I could wake up early without disturbing anyone else, and could get an early start on the trail alone, so that I wouldn’t lag so far behind at the end of the day. That was my plan.

It was a sucky plan.

I got about a 30-minute head start on the rest of the group, and the first wave of them overtook me at about 2 miles, while the second wave caught up with me at 3.5 miles. Downhill from that point, I flew down the mountain to our next stopping point, earning my new trail name “Hopper” because the guy following me – trail name “Rudy” – had to jog to keep up as I hopped over the rocks.

If you want to go fast, go alone. But expect to get blisters. Expect to get winded. Expect that bear vault and ego to get heavier with every step. At the bottom of the hill, not only was I winded and ready for a good, solid snack, I needed a serious break, and something for the hot spots on my big toes. The extra weight and speed gave me a pain I’d never experienced before, and I wasn’t adequately prepared to handle it.

Fortunately, Rudy was. He generously offered me some of his KT Tape to wrap my potential blisters. It’s like a medical tape, and it works great to keep friction from forming a blister on your feet if you use it before you have a problem. After wrapping my toes and having a snack and refilling my water bladder, I still needed more rest, so as the group went on, I stayed behind, alone, to relax, to receive “trail magic” (an orange, from a couple who does trail maintenance), and to hike my own hike.


The next 2.5 miles were the most brutal I’ve ever hiked. After a short downhill stretch, it was a 1,500-foot elevation gain. Also, the weather was unseasonably warm for April, reaching into the upper 80s, humid, not a cloud in the sky or a breeze in the air.

I thought I could handle it. I thought it would be no different than the 1,500-foot elevation gain I’d accomplished the day before as I’d hiked alone into our designated meeting spot. I thought wrong.

I made it up that mountain checking my GPS every half hour or so and being depressed at my slow progress. My pace had slowed from a 20-minute mile to something more like a 90-minute mile. The ache in my shoulders was indescribable, and nothing I did to adjust the pack helped. I was sweating and stopping to catch my breath every 50 feet. I was praying a lot.

I was thinking about when my son was born: 36 hours of the most physically grueling experience I’d ever endured. I had wanted to go drug-free, which I did because I was so committed, and I told myself, if I could birth three babies drug free, I could make it up Brush Mountain. With a quarter mile left to go, I jokingly said to God, “If this is like labor, I’ve gotten to the point where I’d be begging for an epidural!” I rounded a turn and started another steep climb, and as I looked up, I saw Rudy, sweating and smiling.

He had heard the clicking of my hiking poles and had come down to help me carry my pack the rest of the way to the top. I almost cried.

According to Rudy, my pack weighed more than his (and he’s a big guy) – around 30-35 lbs. If his estimate is correct, I was carrying at least a third of my body weight.

There’s no weight limit that’s set in stone, but guidelines used by most backpackers are that individuals in good health should be able to carry about 20% of their body weight. A more experienced backpacker may be able to carry 25% of their body weight, and a very experienced and well-conditioned backpacker may be able to carry as much as 35%. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Gender and age make a difference even when a hiker is in really good shape.

I had about 5.5 miles left to go carrying that pack, despite the brief reprieve. Sure, it was mostly downhill. But even downhill miles are heavy, and hard on the feet and knees. I rested on the top of the mountain while Rudy and our leader, “Flops,” went on ahead to catch up with our other two companions. I put one foot in front of the other and trudged down, doubting myself more with every step. Then I ran out of water.

I was trying to figure out the logistics of quitting. There was a parking area and road at the bottom of the hill, about a mile from our designated camping spot. Maybe I would have cell reception and could call a shuttle to come pick me up. There was no way I’d be able to make it up the next hill to the shelter. Sweat was pouring out of me; my clothes were soaked. My tape-wrapped toes were starting to ache again. I couldn’t even imagine having energy to set up my tent and cook my dinner. I kept thinking about the next day, and climbing the dreaded “Dragon’s Tooth” peak. It wasn’t as long a hike, but the way I was feeling in that moment, I didn’t believe I could safely climb the summit and climb back down. Not with 35 lbs.

I had made up my mind. According to my map, there was a small camping area and stream near that parking lot. I would stay there for the night, and hope that one of my companions came back to check on me when I didn’t get to the shelter. Just as I’d made that decision, the area came into view, and the sound of rushing water urged me onward. And there were tents. Familiar tents. Familiar shirt colors. “Is that you guys?” I yelled? I didn’t wait for the answer. “I love you!!!!” I shouted as I nearly ran down the hill with a big grin on my face.

That afternoon, I baptized my sweaty, soaked body fully clothed in the creek. “Hopper” came up from the frigid water a new woman, refreshed by the spirit of community. I changed into dry clothes, and ate whatever snacks I wouldn’t need the next day, starting with that heavy orange. I expressed my doubt about being able to continue tomorrow, and Rudy said, “Well, you don’t have much choice.” He was right. There was no cell phone signal there in the hollow. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re going to sleep like a log and wake up feeling like a million bucks.” I hoped he was right.


I considered leaving my heavy bear canister and some of my gear behind, hidden by the side of the road; I could come back for it later. I considered leaving my wet clothes and Jetboil stove and fuel as trail magic for a hiker in need. One of the other hikers, “Inferno Man,” offered to carry the bear canister. “Nah, I packed it. It’s my responsibility to carry it out,” I said. He was visibly relieved.

After replenishing my calories and enjoying our companionship by the fire, I crawled into my tent. I left the flap open and stared at the stars. Rudy was right; I did sleep like a log. I did wake up feeling like a million bucks. I wasn’t even sore. I replenished my water, ate breakfast, and started to pack up as the others started out. Vlad, who was prepping for a hike in Europe requiring the ability to carry 50 lbs, offered to carry my Jetboil and my stuff sack of clothes. Inferno Man took my sleeping bad. I had eaten some of my weight the night before, and burned much of my trash. My once-heavy pack was now a reasonable weight and felt more like a day-pack.

The hike up and down Dragon’s Tooth was not easy, especially the rock scramble down. There was a lot of cursing. But I was not alone. This time, I hiked with Inferno Man, who was nursing a sore calf muscle, and our conversation made the miles fly by quickly. We climbed the rocks at the top, which I would have been unable to do without him spotting me and guiding my feet. His presence on the rocky path down gave me the encouragement I needed. About a mile from the end of our multi-day trek, we caught up with Flops (so named because she had hiked in flip flops due to the ugly blisters on her heels.) She jogged down the last stretch of the journey and I speed-walked to catch up with her. I was like a horse headed back to the barn. Flops stopped about a mile from our final destination to change into her flip flops, and I pressed onward, leaving her and Inferno Man behind to keep each other company. I started running down the hill like the trail runners I had seen. If you want to go fast, go alone. I made it to the road, a half mile to go, and there, at the base of the shelter, was a the hostel shuttle, dropping off two hikers.

He offered me a ride for the last half mile to the hostel, where Rudy and Vlad were waiting for us. I jumped in and didn’t even take off my pack. I couldn’t believe I had made it! I was so pleased with myself! My homecoming at the hostel was glorious.

Until it wasn’t.

While I was reliving myself on an actual flushing toilet, Rudy had gotten in his car to pick up Flops and Inferno Man. As they pulled up the driveway, Flops shouted out the window, “Next time you get a ride, wait for the folks behind you!”

A double serving of humble pie.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I want to go together. I really do. As much as I enjoy my solitude and solo activities, I’m desperate for companionship, encouragement, comraderie, support, shared memories. I love being of service to others when I can get out of my own head for half a minute and see those who are around me. I guess years of believing I’m not good enough, that no one could ever actually want to be my friend, have warped my basic social sensibilities. I hate that.

But fortunately, I learn from experiences. I learn from pain. Last weekend, I learned that I need to lighten my pack. I learned that I don’t have to try to be a super hero. I learned that we all have liabilities, whether it’s a heavy pack, or blisters, or a pulled calf muscle. I learned that people are worthy of trust. I learned that I need to focus on being trustworthy and reliable to others.

I learned that I can go far, if I go with others. If I wait for others. If I ask others to wait for me.

Next time, I will have at least two less piece of gear – my bear canister, and my ego. Hopefully the lighter load will be a little more manageable, for everyone.


Holey Heart

Recycling With Joy

In my garage there’s a bin I use to collect recyclables. An assortment of cereal boxes, milk jugs, and jelly jars accumulate there until I put them out for pickup.

Lately, though, the cardboard boxes aren’t making it out to the curb. My youngest child “liberates” anything made of cardboard and transforms it into homes for small toys, or “computers,” or anything else her imagination can conceive. Back before Christmas she turned a Cheez-Its box into a working Shopkins vending machine using plastic wrap as the glass front. A vending machine! The other day she tried to save an old bologna container out of the trash, and I drew the line.

She’s eight, and clearly she’s made in the image and likeness of God; just like her Heavenly Father, she uses everything. She’d rather play with trash than anything else.

This Sunday in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we heard: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.” Olivia chooses the discarded refuse of our modern suburban life to create and experience joy; like my little one, God also recycles the very things we try to discard, whether that’s people, or personality traits, or even less than ideal circumstances.

It reminds me of an old adage I’ve heard about ministry. “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” I can attest to that. Two years ago I felt God calling me to get involved in music ministry, even though I didn’t think I could fit it in my already busy schedule with three kids. Deeper still was a feeling of inadequacy about my musical abilities. And yet, I did as I was called, and much to my surprise God used me, not only to encourage young musicians in my church, but to become a cantor leading our entire congregation at our evening service.

If you had told me two years ago that I’d be doing this in 2017, I’d have told you about the time when I was 22 and subbing for our church cantor and totally choked, or a number of other stories documenting my musical failures. I guess God does qualify the called, because people clap after Mass. I don’t believe church music should be a performance, but rather, an invitation to participate. Still, it feels good to sing strong and well and to be acknowledged. I can boast in nothing but God, because it is only through his grace that I can stand up there and not panic.

I also think of times when I made serious errors in judgement, yet God made use of them (and not just to teach me a lesson the “hard way”). I was fired once. I made a mistake that cost me my job. But because of that mistake, I looked for freelance work on Craig’s List. I took a $30 design gig because I was desperate for anything. The client liked my work and sent me a few other small jobs. Eventually that freelance gig became a part time source of regular income, supported me through the early days of my unemployed divorcehood, and also stretched me creatively and professionally. I’ve learned how to publish books, have gotten referrals, and gained the confidence to produce my own inaugural publication, soon to be for sale on Amazon. If you had told me when I was fired in 2006 that I’d be self-publishing my first book in 2017, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s because of my hard work, yes; but it’s also because God used my failure as a foundation for something new.

I recall when my dog died two years ago. I never knew how much that could hurt my heart. I’d never understood before how people grieved their pets so hard, but when Jake died, I discovered a compassion and empathy I previously lacked. In fact, every tragic thing I’ve ever experienced is something for which I am now grateful, because those experiences have allowed me to connect with my fellow humans on a deeper level, whether it’s the death of a pet, or a terrible year of bullying in middle school, or a painful and confusing divorce. God has used all these to help me be a better friend.

When my ex and I first started accepting the reality of separation and divorce, our first concern was, of course, our children. And he said to me, “I feel as if my whole life has been preparing me for this,” meaning being a divorced parent. His own parents divorced when he was very young, and there was a lot of unpleasantness for him, but God didn’t let those experiences happen in vain; thanks to God’s grace, and their father’s choices, priorities, and sacrifices, my children have a very different kind of “broken” home than their father had. Our family may be broken and blended, but we are a family first.

If you had told me six years ago when we started living under separate roofs that we would be able to handle birthdays and holidays without awkwardness and resentment, I would have been skeptical. It is not without ups and downs, but God uses even those. We are better today at communicating than we were when we were married, because we have to be, whether we like it or not. God uses our relationship to teach me to be a more inclusive person, to put myself in another’s shoes, to express myself even when I’m scared, and to focus more on the common good and less on my own personal convenience.

I can think of friends facing what most of us would consider a “tragedy:” cancer diagnosis, a child with special needs, chronic unemployment. I could also tell you how God is using these circumstances to enrich the lives of so many people in a positive way. Never will I believe that cancer or disease or the indignity of unemployment is “God’s will,” but I will always believe human tragedies are God’s opportunities.

This, for me, is the real grace being illustrated in the Beatitudes, which we also heard this past Sunday. Only when we grieve can we know what it is the be comforted. Only when we long for righteousness can we truly appreciate justice. Only when we find that God is all we have do we realize that God is all we need. When I turn to God in my need, I receive blessing beyond measure. If I had no needs, I’d never know the joy of receiving God’s blessings.

All of this weekend’s readings were in some way speaking about the quality of humility. It is what all of us are called to as Christians, but do we really embrace humility? I don’t think so. More often we embrace perfectionism, which is about as arrogant an attitude as Lucifer thinking he could be an equal with God.

Perhaps a better way to think of humility is “joyful acceptance.” That is the humility of the Beatitudes. My daughter joyfully accepts the discarded boxes as the raw materials for her creativity and inventiveness. Joy is what shames the wise, the proud, the strong, the powerful. Resentment and resistance only embolden the Enemy.

There is a lot going on in the world today, especially my own country, which concerns me deeply. It triggers my very human desire to resent and resist. But as a person of faith, I know without question that God is using it all, even the worst of it, in ways I may never see or understand. This is God’s justice, which goes so far beyond any attempt at human social justice. So I strive to accept it with joy, just as the early martyrs of the Church accepted unimaginable persecution with joy.

What we resist, persists. What we accept, is transformed.


Pardon Me

This morning I woke up thinking about turkey. Not the one I’m going to eat in a few hours. Two turkeys, to be precise, who go by the names “Honest” and “Abe.” While driving home last night I had the privilege of hearing the President of the United States pardon these two birds and spare them from the fate of their brethren. It is a heartwarming American tradition, albeit relatively new; I was surprised to google it and learn George H. W. Bush started doing this in 1989.

But the American tradition of pardoning, of showing mercy, goes back farther. We rebuilt Japan after dropping the bomb, and we rebuilt Europe after victory there in World War II; today, former enemies are now some of our strongest allies.

Recently I went to Appomattox, where General Lee surrendered to General Grant, signaling the end of the brutal civil war that had brother fighting against brother. It was important to President Lincoln that the confederates be shown mercy, as long as they promised not to take up arms against the Union. Grant honored his commander’s intent, not only issuing pardons to each soldier, but including in the terms that each confederate could keep their personal side arms and horse if they had one, so they could get home safely. Reportedly, when the confederate officers and soldiers surrendered their arms and battle flags, it took a solemn four hours, and both sides wept at the gravity of it all, and the weight that was lifted. I can hardly think of a more humbling experience to witness.

Lincoln’s phrase “with charity toward all and malice toward none” is the essence of a beautiful American tradition. When I read and hear stories in the current news cycle, I wonder if young people simply missed learning about the moment that healed a war-torn nation. Many community organizers today are peddling resentment like carpetbaggers, while the communities themselves are poisoned by this sham medicine with a shiny label and a catchy hashtag, justifying violence and hatred. The reaction to this is just as sickening – anger and fear warp into genuine bigotry where at one time a live and let live attitude sufficed.

On this Thanksgiving, I am saddened that my country is once again torn by civil war. I feel angry that I can’t share an opinion without fear of being verbally pummeled by half my friends, whom I respect, love, and with whom I don’t always agree. I feel fearful that we’ve lost the humility required to live peacefully despite our differences. But when I feel angry and sad, I turn to gratitude. I look for the good, and the helpers. I look to my God to help me see what is true, and I don’t fashion the truth into a weapon; I use it as a torch to keep me warm and light my path. If it lights a way for others, all the better.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate expression of humility. An entire nation pauses in our collective lives to acknowledge God as source of all blessings. It has been this way since the first Thanksgiving in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation just a few miles down the road from where I live, and in Plymouth with the pilgrims. George Washington issued a Thansgiving proclamation, and Lincoln codified it. It is the quintessential American spiritual holy day, and one we need more than ever.

May we pardon each other this Thanksgiving. May we offer clemency to those we dislike. May we be compassionate to those who, in their hurting, hurt others. May we forgive before apology is offered. May we hold no malice, and withhold no charity. May we know Who gives us life, and be grateful. May we know that we, too, are forever pardoned, maybe not by our fellows, but always by our Father.

Musical Meditations

You Don’t Have To Believe

You don’t have to believe that you are amazing, gorgeous, brilliant, and deserving of every good thing that comes to you. But what if you did?

I love this song by Eric Hutchinson. It may be one of my favorites of all time, and it could very easily be a theme song for this blog. Especially that line, “Your body is a temple ….” That’s a whole topic at Holey Heart!

False humility is a lie. We fall into it because someone told us we shouldn’t get too big for our britches. That no one likes a braggart. Who do you think you are to deserve this or even attempt to go after that? Maybe we heard it only once as a child and that’s all it needed to take root and grow into a hideous weed that blocks us from acknowledging our true worth.

I’ve struggled with that myself lately. That’s part of why I haven’t written in so long. I guess I was questioning my own worth, and doubting whether my voice has anything new to contribute. I worry about being a hypocrite. A lot.

Well, let me just get it out there. Sometimes, I am a hypocrite. It’s part of being human. It doesn’t make me less human to be “faulty;” in fact, it’s often the faults and flaws that can be our greatest assets when we ask God to use them for His purposes.

Let me be the voice that counters all the negative stuff you’ve been saying to yourself. You are worth everything. You don’t have to believe me to act as if you believe it. Just because you feel unworthy doesn’t mean you are. Feelings aren’t facts.

I challenge you to look yourself in the mirror this morning and say to yourself, “I love you and I’m so glad you are alive!” If you can’t, do it anyway and spend the day acting as if you believe it. And the next day, and the next, until the actions you’ve taken have changed how you think. As the song says, your mind’s what’s at stake!

You don’t have to believe to act, and it’s your actions that will change your life.

Holey Heart

Righteous Peace

I’m blessed to have friends with whom I can talk about spiritual matters. Yesterday I had breakfast with one such friend, and one of our topics of conversation was righteousness. She said she no longer prays to be righteous, because she had been righteous with people close to her for many years and it only served to build a wall. Now, she prays for that ever-elusive quality of humility.

This idea struck me again when I read today’s epistle to the Hebrews about the usefulness of discipline and earthly trials. “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

In my experience, righteousness is not a peaceful fruit.

The first righteous person I remember from my youth was an evangelical baptist girl who lived down the street. She used her righteousness to bully me into making me share and do things her way, because if I didn’t, “Then you’re not a Christian.” Fortunately I knew myself and my God well enough even at that tender age that her words rolled off like beads of water on the back of duck.

Sadly, I have also experienced the unpeacefullness of righteousness in my own attitudes and actions. I don’t need to go through the list of people I’ve cut off and cut down in the name of being right. Righteous indignation is an addictive high, and I give in to it far too often. Usually it results in me turning into a raging lunatic, not a peaceful protester.

Ask my parents. They are usually the recipients of my righteousness – not aimed at them, but vented on them. Why is it that I go to them first with my anger about the religious or political injustice of the day? Probably because I know deep down how ugly I can get, and I trust that they, of all people will love me anyway and not hold it against me when the storm passes and I go back to being my easy-going, accepting self.

At best, righteousness in myself and others tends to come off as smugness. There is nothing peaceful about smugness. Being right is often ugly.

The ironic thing is, one of the best definitions I’ve ever heard for humility is “being in right relationship with God and other people.”

What if righteousness is not about being “right” or knowing “the truth,” but about knowing who I am in relation to others, myself, and a higher power?

Who am I in relation to other people? When I have done as Paul suggests and accepted with joy the hardships of life as loving discipline rather than as an undeserved punishment, I have learned that we are all equals. I am no better or worse than anyone else, and in most cases, life is not fair in my favor. We possess equal dignity and deserve equal respect. That is one of the peaceful fruits of righteousness.

Who am I in relation to myself? This question reminds me that if I’m going to compare myself to anyone, it should only be to who I was yesterday, or a year ago, or some other past incarnation of myself. Comparing myself to anyone else is like apples and oranges. Am I growing more healthy or less heathy right now? Am I becoming more peaceful or less peaceful in my interactions with others? Can I sleep with myself at night knowing that today I’ve done my best, or do I still have lingering feelings of guilt and shame that I’m nursing? This is the only comparison I can make that is fair.

Finally, who am I in relation to God? This answer will look different for every person because every relationship with God is unique. For me, my relationship is one of Creator and created. Father and daughter. Teacher and student. Shepherd and lamb. Wind and leaf. River and fish. Vine and branches. Some of these images are biblical, some more organic, but they work to keep me centered on the most important aspect of this relationship – that I am not God.

I could be an atheist who is unconvinced that there is any evidence of God, and still be in “right relationship” with a higher power as long as I remember that I’m not God, either. Who am I in relation to the universe? Who am I in relationship to the ever-marching beat of time? Who am I in relation to the mountains of Yosemite or the depths of the Grand Canyon or the plunging waters of Niagra Falls?

When I accept hardships as a gift rather than an opportunity to feel sorry for myself, I get to relate to God, myself and others in ever more peaceful ways. I develop compassion for the suffering of others. I get to see who I am and perhaps change direction. And I begin to trust that the God who brings me to it will bring me through it.

Righteousness is not about being right at all; it’s about knowing that something greater than me is in control and is working in my favor in the big picture, even if in the short term I don’t see it. I have the choice of what attitude I take on, and that is what makes all the difference. An attitude of acceptance produces peace. An attitude of victimhood produces self-righteousness.