Monday, June 6, 2011

The Trouble With Pride

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which We are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit.”  ~C.S. Lewis
The first time I read this I literally stopped dead in my tracks as I pondered this vice…. Was I a prideful person and is this really a bad thing? 
Over the years, I’ve debated this notion of Pride.  It’s been a hard one, especially being that I am an athlete and strongly value self-confidence. However, self-confidence is NOT Pride and is more akin to Humility.  And the one thing I am certain of it is that HUMILITY is a GREAT thing.  
“To be humble is not to have a low opinion of oneself; it is to have an accurate opinion of oneself.  It is the ability to keep one’s talents and accomplishments in perspective (Richards, 1992), to have a sense of self-acceptance, an understanding of one’s imperfections and to be free from arrogance and low self-esteem.” (Clark, 1992, p.33)
Personally, anytime I’ve met a person who embodies Humility I find myself wanting to be around them more.  And it’s not just me.  They have this “Je ne sais quoi” effect with everyone they encounter.  These people make you want to be a better you! 
So if Humility is the antithesis of Pride, does that mean Pride is a bad thing?  I think so… and yet it’s not like I believe I’m above it. 
In fact, I believe Pride just might be the Achilles heel of mankind.  
The problem with Pride is it involves admiration by others and it is not lasting.  It's there in feeling important because of the job, education, house, car, or experience one has; and the "important" people one desires to know and be friends with. 

The motive of passion is replaced by the need to feel magnanimous. For example, having a highly regarded job because it provides the prideful feeling of importance rather than having a job one is passionate about.

It is human nature to want to feel important.  But, really, if people valued themselves more and relied less on the opinions of others this urge would be fulfilled.  I’m sure people who exude Humility have mastered this.
Ironically, isn’t it funny that it is viewed in society as a good thing to have people want to be like you and have what you have? 
Similarly, Pride involves comparison to another– doing better than the next person.  To quote C.S Lewis “We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not.  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. “ 
Feeling superior and above others…. How can this be a good thing?  I don’t want to be around someone who has this view of themselves.  Do you???
Sport is an interesting paradox because it involves being better than a competitor. We build heroes from victorious wins.  Yet, unknowingly, these pedestals athletes are placed on may become the same pedestals they are knocked off when they are no longer an athlete or performing as they once use to. 
The Hero-to-Zero complex is a very real problem for some athletes.   Often, athletes struggle with their identity being wrapped up in their sport.  If one finds value in being better than others because of their achievements, when they are no longer an athlete (or fail to achieve the same success they once had), that sense of Pride has been extinguished.
It may seem contradictory to argue against Pride being that I am an Olympian, but I will tell you my greatest performances have been achieved when I viewed the high jump bar as my competitor and not other athletes.  It is for this reason I often say “Measure your success not by comparing yourself to others, but by how close you approach your own potential. You may discover you’ll surpass exceptional along the way." 
Please understand, by no means, have I mastered my battle with pride.  It is something I am constantly working on... while I strive to know Humility. :)
POOFing! To Pride,