A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Is Pride Good or Bad?

By Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at gmail.com] (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at gmail.com] (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is how you probably expect me to answer the title’s question: “It can be either, depending on the context. It’s good to have pride in your identity, your family name, your country, your achievements; in this sense, pride is the same as good self-esteem. It’s only bad when your pride is out of proportion and makes you act like a boastful, selfish child.”

But actually, I think pride is never good. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “bad,” because there are many worse things more deserving of that label and because it’s natural and instinctive. But, in my view, pride is a hindrance to a mature, emotionally healthy life.

I think it’s far better to approach life with an open hand than with a clenched fist. Pride is a clenched fist, a determined clutch onto an identity, whether that identity is one’s persona, family name, religion, political party, race, culture, state, country, etc. When something threatens that identity, pride causes a defensive reaction, because pride functions to protect the territory of one’s identity. In this way pride is a natural defense mechanism—but it also shields us from growth and other good things life has to offer. For example, if someone is too proud (afraid) to accept criticism and goes to great lengths to keep from looking bad, being shown to be wrong, or being humbled in any way, then that person is also keeping away opportunities for substantial growth in his or her career or personal life. This is an extreme example; most of us have learned how to swallow our pride and accept criticism—but we may have other areas of life in which we frantically protect our identity from attack (growth opportunities).

What is better is to hold your identity loosely, because it can be shattered in an instant. Cling instead to things that are deeper than your identity—things you’ll think of when you’re on your deathbed—love and friendships, kindness, the pleasure of things you enjoy, living in accord with the “still small voice” inside your mind, and sweet moments on your journey of life.


2 comments on “Is Pride Good or Bad?

  1. Margaret Agard
    September 30, 2013

    Yes. I once read a definition of pride as enmity – a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism. I suppose pride in oneself or one’s identity can only be done in comparison to the “other”, the ones who aren’t that.

    Your list of what to enjoy is a great one!


  2. Witness
    September 30, 2013

    I can see how pride, especially tribe-pride, once could have enhanced the ability to live long enough to produce surviving offspring. It’s tempting to identify a “Them,” whether it’s an opposing team or people of a particular socioeconomic status, sexual preference, race, religion, or nation/tribe. Either/or seems to be about as sophisticated as our instincts get, and the binary nature of Us versus Them is instinctually appealing. It offers the comfort of thinking we know good from bad, safe from dangerous, wholesome versus noxious, and seems to simplify the world to a comprehensible level. I recognize that being “Us,” as defined by “Them,” can be a comforting experience, but I’m not so comforted by a sense of Us that it’s worth distorting others into enemies.

    Tribe-pride/nationalism doesn’t work with the social structures we have now, nor with the challenges facing our species as a whole. For the sake of our collective future, we would do well indeed to shake it off.

    On an individual level, pride, insofar as it isolates and divides, is one of many instances where the present results of natural selection aren’t compatible with the aims and interests of present individuals (at least where wisdom, compassion, and the power to be effective are held as values), and so must be either addressed or suffered (if not both).

    “Pride functions to protect the territory of one’s identity.” I never heard that before; what a thought-provoker. It’s a bold statement to make, and, bonus, it even seems to be true.

    As ever, your analysis is insightful, original, and enlightening. Thanks.


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This entry was posted on September 30, 2013 by in Discoveries from Living and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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