Pride

noun

  1. a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from acknowledgment of one’s accomplishments by one’s peers, even strangers; an emotion that stems only from recognition by others, never by oneself.
It has been a long time since Pride has been considered a sin–and to think, it used to be a Deadly one! Undoubtedly the unholy transformation from sin to virtue began with the birth of capitalism, exact date unknown, when the whole value system of humanity began to shift right along with the markets. Pride could come from work, or production, or creation, and capitalism demanded increases in all the above, rewarding those that accomplished the most. The people with the most reason to be proud were being praised the most highly–even Pavlov’s stupid cat would take that as a sign that pride was something to cherish. Pride itself became something to be proud of. WHOA.

It really is quite simple, though. Once religion lost its hold on society (something about the peasant’s promise for afterlife respite not being as attractive as the chance to work hard and grab yourself some earthly delights), pride became a good thing rather than a bad thing. Parents were proud of their children. Workers were proud of their creations. Artists were proud of their art. Beautiful people were proud of their looks. Athletes were proud of their abilities. Pride permeated the population of capitalist society, both deserved and undeserved, until it became something that was expected of a mentally healthy person. Children are encouraged to be proud of their accomplishments and parents are encouraged to remind their children that, no matter what, they are proud of them. Pride pride pride. It’s everywhere.

So…is it sin or virtue? Is it good or bad that our society has accepted pride as an essential building block of our cultural character? Well…like any truth in life, it is not so black and white. Pride can be turned into unmistakable evil, just as the authors of the Old Testament feared. Prideful people can be conceited, lacking in empathy, and selfishly ambitious.  On the other hand, pride, when taught as a character-building virtue, can be integral to confidence and overall happiness. It can be motivation for people to be productive and successful in their endeavors and so greatly increase their chances for satisfaction and purposeful lives. The truth–as obnoxious as it usually is–is that pride is only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how it is used. Proud people, therefore, should not stress that they are carrying around a sinful secret, but should instead be mindful of their pride and use it to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Humble, meek people–those wholly without pride–can rejoice in their moral purity if they so choose, but they should not use their fear of pride as an excuse that holds them back from chasing their dreams and accomplishing their goals. Pride is always the same–it is up to the proud to decide whether to make it good or bad.
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