I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.
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.