Good pride, bad pride

Pride has been on my mind lately. Seems like I'm not the only one.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was frequently accused of arrogance. Justly, I might add, because while it was mainly a front for insecurity, I did try to buffer my self from others by donning an unearned superiority, an excessive and unjustified pride. Like many such people, I was a coward - too afraid to be myself, too aware of what the world thought of me, too scared in the final consequence of being unlovable. But I was also, and very definitely, completely full of myself.

It did work in my favor in the army or at summer camp, where given a small company of young boys to lead, the style went over fairly well since they assumed I knew what I was doing. As a manager at my first company, however, it failed miserably. And so I literally had to eat humble pie and learn empathy and I guess that's the pie I still eat.

I don't generally have a high regard for myself nowadays, which to others signals humility. That's fine, but I wish they'd use it to reflect on their own sinful natures, because that's what I'm doing.

One sickness of our society is that we give ourselves way too much time to grow up in this way. It is is possibly the unintended result of general prosperity and comfort, or maybe our woeful misunderstanding of what it means to love our children, or the perversion of our academies, or maybe our socio-economic order which tends to prioritize the desires of the self above all else. Maybe it is some amalgam of all of these. I spent way too much time growing up. Not enough adversity, too much freedom.

The way to decide whether pride is good or bad is first whether it is justified. So you can be proud of a job well done, or proud of your children's achievements, or even proud of your tribe's heritage (family, city, country). But when pride is unjustified and oriented at self, it is the root of all evil.

Wait, you thought that was money? Greed is only a secondary effect of pride. Others are the excessive seeking of pleasure. Or power. Or social status. They are all oriented at satisfying the self with substitutes, at plugging at the hole within you which cannot be filled with things, or pleasures, or even people.

Pride is the greatest substitute. It takes your self and it makes it the measure of the world. When in reality, your talents, your situation, your life are gifts that you have received. You won the ovarian lottery. You are skilled, conscientious, well-educated, wealthy, charming, beautiful.

Now go and use your gifts to do things that are worth doing. Your life isn't about you.