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In Praise of Pride

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posted on Feb, 12 2011 @ 11:14 PM
“There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package. Take me... or leave me. Accept me - or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don't fit your idea of who I should be and don't try to change me to fit your mold. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision. When you are strong enough to love yourself 100%, good and bad - you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you.”

Stacey Charter

Friends, ATSer's, Virtual Countrymen, I come not bury Pride, but to Praise it! Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, and Envy are six of the seven deadly sins enumerated by the Catholic Church. The seventh is Pride. Where lust can be defined as a banal sexual desire wanting in any spirituality, and gluttony clearly comes with health problems and even leads to other problems such as sloth like behavior, greed when understood as a deadly sin can be defined as wanting more than has been earned, (although such a desire, particularly when acted upon would fairly be called theft, well covered by the Ten Commandments), and wrath is most certainly an emotion that leads most of us, if not all, towards trouble, and of course, envy is indicative of self loathing and even may lead to greed as understood as being equivalent to theft, and surely is a useless emotion at best, but Pride?

Interestingly, before the Catholic Deadly Sins were thrust upon people, there was a list of seven things "The Lord doth hate" in the Book of Proverbs 6:16-19 which include:

* A proud look.
* A lying tongue.
* Hands that shed innocent blood.
* A heart that devises wicked plots.
* Feet that are swift to run into mischief.
* A deceitful witness that uttereth lies.
* Him that soweth discord among brethren

The only commonality between the list from the Book of Proverbs and the Catholic Seven Deadly Sins is Pride. What is it with Pride that it would be so reviled since time immemorial? What makes Pride such a deadly sin, and why would God, arguably Proud in the Godliness of being God, have such an issue with People taking Pride in what they do?

“It is better to lose your pride with someone you love rather than to lose that someone you love with your useless pride.”

John Ruskin

Is it truly better to lose your pride with someone you love? If you lost someone you loved because of "useless pride", what have you truly lost? It seems a truism that the heart loves who it loves and no amount of rationalizing can prevent the heart from loving someone who doesn't love you, but how sound is a the strategy of losing pride in a vain attempt to be with someone who doesn't love you? How can we even expect to be loved if we have nothing at all to be proud of?

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you.”

C.S. Lewis

Is it a proud man who is always looking down on others, or is it more correctly an arrogant man who would do such a thing? Why would taking pride in ones own accomplishments dictate looking down on others? Indeed, if one wants to be accomplished, and often times those who are do so, then it is best to look up and aspire towards rather than look down.

“No one ever choked to death swallowing his pride”


Maybe not, but it is possible, even probable that plenty wound up with stomach aches for swallowing their pride.

“Temper gets you into trouble. Pride keeps you there.”


Here we begin to understand a little more clearly what is going on with the notion that pride is an emotion non gratis. I suspect the above anonymously quoted remark speaks to that phenomenon when we get angry for no to little good reason at all, but because we expended so much energy in being angry over something trivial, we remain stubbornly entrenched in our anger, refusing to acknowledge it was a stupid thing to get angry over...but, is this phenomenon fairly called pride, or is there a better word to describe it? Wouldn't stubbornness be the more apt word to describe this phenomenon? What accomplishment is there in being angry, and for crying out loud what accomplishment comes from getting angry over nothing and then insisting on remaining angry over nothing? This is hardly something worth being proud over.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs; 6:18

Often times shortened to "pride comes before the fall", again we are told that pride is useless, and what's worse, it is destructive. How odd that the emotion that follows accomplishment would be castigated as leading to destruction. Usually accomplishment comes in the form of creation, and less destruction. I suppose being proud for creating the atom bomb would be apt in regards to Proverbs 6:18. However, pride did not seem to be the overriding reaction from those responsible for the creation of the atom bomb:

In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.

Robert J. Oppenheimer

My reawakening from being completely technically oriented came dramatically on July 16 as I experienced the test explosion of the first nuclear bomb…That which has been an intellectual reality to me for some three years had suddenly become a factual, and existential reality. There is a very great difference. My technical work was done, the race was run, and the full awful magnitude of what we had done came over me. I determined at that moment that, having played even a small role in bringing it about, I would go all out in helping to make it become a positive factor for humanity.

Robert R Wilson

Although Norbert Wiener was not invited along with many of his contemporaries to work on the Manhattan Project, he was a scientist whose work was, and still is, used extensively in military applications:

I think the omens for a third world war are black and I have no intention of letting my services be used in such a conflict. I have seriously considered the possibility of giving up my scientific productive effort because I know no way to publish without letting my inventions go to the wrong hands.

Norbert Wiener

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparallel catastrophe.

Albert Einstein

Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.


The list of scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project is fairly extensive, and it is likely the list of guilt ridden quotes from each of these scientist is fairly extensive as well. Einstein, Oppenheimer, Werner, and Wilson, all men of note, all men who've accomplished great things, and yet, when it comes to the creation of the atom bomb, one would be hard pressed to find a sense of pride from these men regarding that creation.

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”

Khalil Gibran

Sometimes our accomplishment lies in our steadfast adherence to principles. Gibran is speaking of people who resist accepting charity even when they need it, and he calls this pride. If the resistance comes from a principle that the apparent need for charity is only temporary, and that the unapparent ability to work out the temporary problems in order to gain what is needed outweighs the apparent need for charity, then this is a principle, when upheld, that is worthy of pride. Indeed, sometimes people will be railroaded into accepting charity against their better wishes simply because those doing the railroading have failed to see the genuine ability of the person who is struggling.

Everybody struggles, and every runner stumbles at some point, but struggling and stumbling is not because of pride. It may be due to hubris, or as Proverbs suggest; "a haughty nature", but pride does not cause struggle, nor does it make one stumble. When we stumble, it would seem the next best action would be to get back up again. If we have stumbled in such a way that we cannot get back up again without the help of someone else, and instead of accepting that help we insist that we can do it on our own, in spite of the clear reality that we cannot, then Gibran's statement makes more sense, but again, is such a stubborn action pride? If we reject needed help is this not arrogance again? Arrogance is the presumption of knowledge, and what other reason would we reject needed help if not for our arrogant belief that we do not need that help?

Interestingly, pride is often equated with arrogance, but they are not the where near the same. Consider another quote by Ruskin:

“In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.”

John Ruskin

At the bottom of all mistakes, great and small, is arrogance. The presumption of knowledge not in ones possession will get one into far more trouble than an ill temper will, and when one acts upon their arrogance, this is fairly defined as hubris. Hubris, in its modern usage, has too often come to be defined as an excess of pride, which is an odd understanding of pride. How can someone have an excess of a sense of accomplishment? I suppose it could be argued that one could overestimate their accomplishments, but I would counter that such an overestimation is not pride, but again is arrogance.

I often rant against the problems of modern day word usage, and how certain words have strayed so far from their meaning as to render nothing but confusion. The last time I ranted about this, someone answered that in linguistics if the definition behind the word is understood then it is language. This person then suggested I let go of my conservationism regarding language and learn to grin and bear it. I respectfully submit that such an attitude is hubristic, not because it is an attitude steeped in pride, but because it is an attitude steeped in sloppiness and disregard for detail and even foundational support.

Consider this online definition of hubris:

Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance: "There is no safety in unlimited technological hubris"

Take note how the example offered has nothing at all to do with pride, and everything to do with presumption. Indeed, it is arguable that all presumptions, regardless of the intent, are hubristic, not just overbearing presumptions....whatever that means. Now consider the etymology of hubris:

1884, from Gk. hybris "wanton violence, insolence, outrage," originally "presumption toward the gods," of unknown origin.

If we trace it back to its origins, which are admittedly unknown, hubris is quite simply presumption towards the gods, or even simpler still presumption. As the word evolved in the lexicon it became associated with wanton violence, insolence, and outrage, not pride. In his seminal work Poetics, Aristotle speaks of the tragic hero, and of course, claims that hubris is one of the fatal flaws that always fell a tragic hero. It is strangely ironic, and strangely in its apparent betrayal of Aristotle's view of pride, of which he held as a virtue and not a vice, that far too many academic types today will reference Aristotle's Poetics assertion of hubris, but then turn around and define hubris as being an excess in pride. This is not how Aristotle defined hubris: cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.

Rhetoric by Aristotle

Has academia become so riddled with half-witted sloppiness that the so called modern "scholars" will presume that Aristotle meant hubris to mean excessive pride without even bothering to do the research? Or is it something more sinister, and are genuine scholars adding to the mounds of disinformation as if they are a part of some kind of priest class and what they know that makes them scholars is for their eyes only, and not for the masses, who should seek out humility and eschew pride? Which leads to the flip side of pride, which is humility.

I have often heard it said that we spend too much time focused on pride and not near enough time seeking out humility, and anytime I hear this remark, or some variation of this remark, I can't help but think to myself that people who think this don't get out much. Hell, to be perfectly honest, I don't get out much but I assure you that I do not have to seek out humility as humility as a way - on a daily basis - of seeking me out! Seek out humility indeed? What's up with that? My once thick head of hair has thinned so much it is clear I am balding, my once flat stomach is losing the war with gravity and visibly so, and no matter how much I age, no matter how experienced I have become at walking, I still manage to trip on a crack in the sidewalk every now and then. Humility is a constant part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. Humility comes easy. What doesn't come so easy is pride.

Pride is necessarily earned, and there cannot be any pride without accomplishment. There can be a presumption of accomplishment, but this is arrogance. There can be a misrepresentation of accomplishment, i.e., plagiarism, but this is not pride, it is envy or some other emotion that can only hope to mimic actual accomplishment. Actual accomplishment takes time and effort, sometimes much time and great effort, working through several mistakes, struggles and stumbles. People cannot be born with pride, the must earn it, and once they've earned it why should they swallow it and pretend they are not proud of what they accomplished?

I offer only praise of pride, and undoubtedly see it as a virtue, for it is truly the subsequent emotion that follows accomplishment, and there is no accomplishment so small as to render pride unworthy. A well made bed deserves pride, even if such an emotion is short lived, and while a well made bed doesn't compare to curing cancer, curing cancer would undoubtedly engender a sense of pride that lasts longer than a well made bed. Of course, if you are the one who intends to cure cancer, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to make your bed everyday too. The more we accomplish, the more we become enamored with accomplishment, and this is not a sin by any stretch of the imagination. Accomplishment is holy and sacred.

The dirty little secret is that all people are capable of great accomplishments, but if there is a concerted effort to convince people that pride is a deadly sin, or a vice unseemly in polite company then how many of us will make our beds and no matter how well made that bed might be, embrace an affectation of humility and disregard this minor accomplishment as nothing more than obligation...a daily chore and no more, and if we are disregarding the minor accomplishments as nothing more than obligation, it is not such a far leap that many of us will come to disregard our major accomplishments as nothing more than a chore. We accomplish what we accomplish for many reasons, among them might be the reason that what we accomplished needed to be done, but just because it needed to be done, this does not in anyway discount the accomplishment of getting it done. Quite the contrary, because it needed to be done, that someone accomplished it is worthy of praise, and those who we praise are people who deserve to feel pride.

posted on Feb, 19 2011 @ 05:08 PM
It's certainly true, almost undoubtably so, that many societies have advertised the benefits of humility with the intention of keeping public morale down and advocating unquestioning acceptance; I myself wouldn't go as far as to explicitly advocate pride, as, although better than willing servitude, pride often results in carelessness and underestimation of adversaries and can be exploited just the same, but I accept your point.

posted on Feb, 19 2011 @ 05:16 PM

Originally posted by Reston
It's certainly true, almost undoubtably so, that many societies have advertised the benefits of humility with the intention of keeping public morale down and advocating unquestioning acceptance; I myself wouldn't go as far as to explicitly advocate pride, as, although better than willing servitude, pride often results in carelessness and underestimation of adversaries and can be exploited just the same, but I accept your point.

Thank you Reston, for taking the time to read my little treatise. As to your suggestion that pride often results carelessness and underestimation of adversaries, this is what I would call hubris, not pride. It may be that pride can lead to hubris, but in reality there are many who fall prey to hubris who have no compelling reason to be proud. If that makes sense.

posted on Feb, 19 2011 @ 05:37 PM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

1. a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
2. the state or feeling of being proud.
3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
4. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.
5. something that causes a person or persons to be proud: His art collection was the pride of the family.

Pride is one of the most misused/abused words in the English language, most use the word in the context of number 1 above or number 3 thinking that ones position or character makes them better then others. In reality I have a problem with all 5 listed above in that what is wrong with just being satisfied with your lot in life especially if you worked to accomplish something better.

People praise others all the time which gives them a false since of who they are, in most cases I believe it is lip service, or they praise themselves, now I would think there is a little bias there, conceit isn't pretty, if it's excessive you are looked at as vain.

Interesting thread as always, please don't let that go to your head.

edit on 19-2-2011 by Aquarius1 because: (no reason given)

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