Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Worthless Pride

Meet Icarus. No, down in the water. (Click to enlarge)
Somewhere along the line, a switch flipped in my head. But in the past, things were different . . .

I remember being a little kid and getting teased on the playground. I remember crying about it.

Years later, during the search for our first house, I took a family member through the place we had decided to buy. She said: "I hate it." At the time, I got mad -- I remember feeling the anger burning in my stomach. She had insulted our taste. This was to be our home. How dare she?

Another time, early in my career, I presented a piece of music to a class I was teaching -- a song with lyrics that had meant a lot to me when I was their age -- and the students made fun of it. Not brutally, but they said insulting things about it during our discussion. It really hurt my feelings. I actually drove home that day considering giving up teaching -- if that was the way it was going to be.

What was the source of these feelings? It was worthless pride. Inefficient pride. Ineffective pride. The sort of pride that accomplishes nothing.

Only recently in life, I have become immune to situations like this. And, strangely, it seems ridiculous to me that I ever felt any negative emotion as a result of attacks or as a result of others questioning my taste -- or appearance, etc.

Pride is a waste or spiritual energy. Pride is what keeps us arguing even when we know we are wrong: worthless. It is what stops us from wearing our favorite shirt because someone at work made a joke about it: limiting. It is what makes us have to say what we think even if it hurts those around us: egocentric. It is the thing that makes us push ourselves too far for fear of the judgement of others: dangerous. It is what stops us from telling someone we love, "I'm sorry; I was wrong": damaging.

Egocentric Odysseus makes up for it.
As far as what flipped the switch in me -- I can only say that after years of sweating over the forge and pounding my confidence into shape, I have finally thrust it, hissing, into the quickening tub. 

I am not proud; I am confident. Real confidence is not a belief in one's perfection or superiority, but a satisfaction with one's progress through life, so far, and it is the basis for the courage to continue on with the massive task of living until the end. Because I am confident, I don't feel the need to compete with anyone else and I don't feel threatened by the opinions or the jibes of others. I no longer can be bullied into having my pride hurt. That valve is shut off, down in my soul's basement.

Pride should never be confused with confidence, or with dignity (which is every human's right). But pride is a person's excuse to never put in the work it takes to change and improve or it is the excuse to do foolish and unnecessarily risky things. Pride is the big stick we carry to swing at others when we're not sure we can take them down in a fair fight.


  1. I like it and agree. I like to compete in trivial things like sports but it's not for the win as much is it is for the thrill of competition. I have coached many youth teams and always tell the kids NOT to confuse being "competitive" with being a sore loser. Your comments about pride remind me of this.

  2. Thanks,Lurch. You're exactly the kind of coach I'd want my boys to have. There's a difference between wanting to win and needing to win, for sure. Either way, we have all experienced the thrill of competition. Great to have a little Lurchian philosophy on here.

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  4. I think that when we hear words that ring so true for us, that speak to the absolute core of who we are, or at least who we aspire to be, we cannot help but be moved.

    This actually brought me to tears.

  5. I'm not one for compliments, but this is stellar advice, and some I hope to follow. I freely admit that my sense of my pride has gotten in the way of my contentedness.

    Great advice, presented simply, astutely, and with eloquence. Thanks.

    ~ Matt

  6. Beth -- wow -- I'm floored that this meant so much to you. Can't get a better compliment than that. Knowing that intelligent friends like you are moved by what I do from time to time is nothing short of inspirational for me. Thanks so much.

    Matt -- I thank you, sir. Pride does fall away with a constant quest for improvement, I believe -- a quest that I get the feeling you are on.