More Observations on Pride

I’d like to follow up on a previous article I wrote on pride.  When I mention pride, I am talking about what the Greeks called “hubris”, i.e. arrogance and an inflated sense of self-worth, which causes you to make poor decisions based on an exaggerated sense of personal dignity and ego. I consider pride a destructive force, and also self-destructive. On top of that, pride congeals with other negative forces to make them more intense.

Pride and Shame

Book cover 300One of the most conspicuous and common of these negative forces is shame, and I have realized that pride and shame are two sides of the same coin. The more pride you have, the more potential shame you can feel. For years, I was haunted by past memories of experiences in which I felt shame, and my mind simply wouldn’t let them go. I am a firm believer in not thinking about the past, though I did not learn this skill till late in life. Before that, these memories of past shameful experiences constantly invaded my thinking and brought down my mood.

Shame can come in many forms. It can be deep embarrassment, or a feeling of disgrace, or humiliation. Generally, it involves a painful experience that took place in the presence of other people.  In my case, I was constantly tormented by thoughts like, “How could I have been bullied? How could I have lost that game? How could someone have made a fool out of me?”

The resolution I came to, after years of wondering why I continued to relive experiences of shame — and also realizing that I had a pride problem — was that pride and shame are two sides of the same coin. They are interconnected. As I started to think about myself more humbly, and without any sense of entitlement or deserving more than others, I found that I was able to accept these painful experiences of shame, and move on. I had never been able to accept them, because my pride would not allow it. Yes, I was a human being, like everyone else, and I could be humiliated and embarrassed. Others have shameful experiences and move on, so why shouldn’t I? It was my pride that wouldn’t let me, until I decided to renounce it. Pride, as I have said before, is indeed a master of deception.

Pride’s Destructiveness to Others

I mentioned at the beginning that pride is both destructive and self-destructive. In addition to realizing how my pride was hurting myself, what helped me to overcome my pride problem was to realize how much it was hurting others. Many philosophers would argue that you have a right to destroy your own life, but no one would argue that you have the right to hurt others.

Making decisions based on pride, or “face”, rather than logic, is the way to cause damage to other people. These decisions can affect your company, your team, your family, and even your friends. In the midst of my depression, I had little respect for myself, and didn’t care if my actions did harm to me. But what helped me overcome pride was seeing how my prideful decisions and actions hurt those around me, and those that depended on me.

Hence, if you ever find yourself about to make a decision that is based on pride, think about how it will affect those around you. Think about how it will make them feel, in addition to the other consequences. As always in life, the more you consider the feelings of others, the better the decision you will make, and they happier you will be afterwards.

–Tom McKinley, author of Winning the Fight to Be Happy

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