Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Going to Hell: Is Pride Always Bad?

Kayak at Sunset - Flotsam of the Mind

"I'm really proud of how I drew the wings on this one," said my son as he showed me his latest dragon drawing. It's an odd affectation he has--whenever he draws or builds something he's particularly excited about, he'll break it down into its component parts and explain which he's most proud of. I don't know where he picked up this habit, but it strikes me as odd every time he does it.

It's odd because we don't usually proclaim pride in our own work. It's considered bad form.

We've been taught that pride is a bad thing. My dictionary defines pride as "an unduly high opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem; conceit." 

Pride is not just bad form; it's a sin, and one of the biggies. In Christianity, Pride is one of the seven deadly sins that, if severe enough, will get you sent straight to Hell. It's also usually considered the worst of the seven deadly sins and the origin of the others. Bad stuff, that Pride.

We all try not to appear prideful. If we share an accomplishment, we qualify that accomplishment with a self-deprecating comment. I do it all the time. Last week on the Facebook page, I shared the (exciting-to-me) news that one of my posts was featured on BlogHer by saying: "As if I were a real blogger and everything. (Looks like I fooled them for today.)" While I wanted to share my excitement, I also wanted you to know that I wasn't getting too big for my britches.

We use self-deprecation to show we have no hubris. It avoids pride in our accomplishments.

This throws the baby out with the bathwater. Conceit is not the only definition of pride. If you keep reading past the first definition, you'll see that pride also is defined as "proper respect for oneself; sense of one's own dignity or worth; self-respect" and "delight or satisfaction in one's own or another's achievements." How is proper respect for oneself a bad thing? Since when are delight and satisfaction something to be avoided?

I've been feeling good about myself lately. You might even say delighted or satisfied. You might say proud.

My photography has been making me happy. I'm learning more all the time, and I believe that my results keep improving. Both these things bring me joy.

I could qualify this by noting that I don't think I'm All That and that I have so much to learn that I don't even know what I don't know. I could qualify it by listing the many people I know personally who are better at it than I am. I could qualify it by pointing out how any single image could have been better.

But I won't. Not today. I will trust that you, who know me or read my words, know that I'm not arrogant, vain, or supercilious. I will trust that my humility shows as well as my pride. I will trust that you will not judge my happiness.

Happiness and (lowercase) pride are things to be celebrated. Each one of us should take a minute to find one thing we are proud of. Today, I'm proud that I'm learning new things, and I'm proud that I can make something beautiful. What are you proud of?


  1. You are right. I am proud to be your friend and proud that I'm only slightly procrastinating on grading.

    1. You will get it done on time, on your own time. I know. And I'm proud of you for sticking with it.

  2. Most of the things that I end up being proud of have also required a lot of hard my accomplishments on the flying trapeze. I'm pretty proud of that.