Pride-the Good, the Bad & the Ugly/Spiritual Meditations

What do you take pride in? Is it your home, car or job? Or maybe your children or the organization you are a member of. Whatever it is, it is heavily influenced by society’s norms and values. Pride is the satisfaction, pleasure, or vindication that arises from having our self-image confirmed. And it is interesting that we have little control over it; if we perceive an insult to our self-image we automatically lift our chin and look down our nose.

As scholars have noted, we humans have had a somewhat tricky relationship with pride for hundreds of years.  It has been perceived both as vice and virtue.  And if pride is acceptable, how much is all right?

A relatively recent body of psychological research has been able to provide more clarity on this curious emotion. Researchers have published a study in which they analyzed both published and unpublished studies on pride, and they found compelling support in the scientific literature for two separate notions: authentic pride and hubristic pride (excessive pride or self-confidence). 

One study suggested that “authentic” pride is linked to beneficial approaches to leadership, while “hubristic” pride is connected to harmful leadership styles.

Bad Pride

Many religious traditions look upon pride, hubris, and vanity as self-idolatry. In the Christian tradition, pride is one of the seven deadly sins and is only referred to in the Bible as an undesirable trait..

Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Pride
  • Greed
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Sloth

Pride is a sin hated by God because, along with greed, it supports all the other sins, blinds us to truth and reason, and severs our soul from God’s grace. Think about it. When you are proud of yourself you are feeling pretty good about your abilities….do you really need God?

Hubris has come to denote an inflated sense of one’s status, abilities, or accomplishments, especially when accompanied by self-righteousness, haughtiness, or arrogance. Because it is out of touch with the truth, hubris promotes injustice, conflict, enmity, and a belief in social inequality.

Hubristic pride is also related to hostility, withdrawal, nervousness, and mild depression.  People who are prone to false pride lack self-esteem, and their arrogance is their way of convincing themselves and others that they too are worthy of respect and admiration. Even if their posturing is hollow, it can do the trick—at least temporarily.  

In addiction work, pride makes itself known when one proclaims, “I can do this on my own,” “I don’t need help,” or “I don’t need God.” 

Good Pride and Dignity

To understand what is good about pride, I think we need to tone down the arrogant and conceit aspects of it and focus on the word ‘dignity’.

Researchers found the good side of pride is linked with qualities such as being friendly, responsible, broad-minded, understanding, forward-looking, and personable. It’s also connected to being inspired by reaching goals and advantageous results, feeling upbeat emotions, believing in our ability to take on challenges, and viewing accomplishments as a reflection of our exertion and capacity.  A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by others.

This seems like a healthy aspect of pride.  But if value is tied to our accomplishments or self-image, it’s built on shaky ground.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction when we achieve some goal. But if we allow these things to define who we are, we set ourselves up for future disappointment. Achievements are ephemeral and can become a trap. If too much of our attention goes toward accomplishing bigger and better things to feel good, then we become addicted to external sources of gratification.

In contrast, dignity can live inside us regardless of our successes and failures. We don’t have to prove anything to anybody, or even to ourselves. If an enterprise fails, this doesn’t mean that we’re a failure. If an attempt to communicate our feelings to our partner falls flat, we might feel sad, but we can feel good knowing we did our best. We can experience the dignity of having reached out to connect or to repair an injury to the relationship. We can experience the dignity of living with integrity, regardless of the outcome.

As the light of our dignity shines more brightly, we realize that we don’t have to be perfect. Showing vulnerability and humility invites people toward us. We become approachable rather than intimidating. We don’t see ourselves as better or worse than anyone else. We recognize that we’re all a part of the human condition; we all have strengths and weaknesses.

It is freeing to hold ourselves with the dignity that comes from simply being human. We don’t need to achieve “greatness” to have worth and value. We’re great just as we are. We might be inclined to pursue excellence because it feels meaningful, enlivening, and expansive, but not because it defines who we are as a person.

When pride is substituted for our human dignity, it disconnects us from God. Affirming our dignity and allowing others their dignity, we become more available to honor ourselves and connect with others as equals. Pride is a burden we don’t need. Living with dignity allows us to move more freely through life

Conclusion

On the one hand, pride is the most blinding and unforgiveable of sins, but, when redefined as dignity, it is a vector of virtue.

A more genuine and stable self-worth is based upon validating, affirming, and valuing ourselves as we are. Self-worth is a function of living with dignity, which exists apart from any accomplishments.

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Relevant Scripture

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! (2 Kings 19:22)

In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

References

Why Pride Is Nothing to Be Proud Of | Psychology Today by John Amodeo Ph.D., MFT

The Value of Authentic Pride | Psychology Today  by Holly Parker, PH.D

Pride: Vice or Virtue? | Psychology Today  by Neel Burton MD

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