121 – To Have Pride

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TO HAVE PRIDE…

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Alright…so today I will be talking about a particularly complex concept.  This topic was suggested by a new listener named Mitch.  If you want to be like Mitch and send me your own topic suggestions just go to the website and find the CONTACT ALF button and send me a letter.  Today, thanks to Mitch, we will be discussing pride.

I said pride was a complex issue…and it really is.  The definition of pride varies widely.  It is an inward directed emotion that is altogether separate from happiness or joy.  It seems that pride has a good side, and a dark side when you approach it from the english language, and I suspect from others as well.

I never felt that pride was a negative myself.  To me pride was always a positive word for some reason.  Growing up I was proud of my family and my home.  If I got a good grade at school or did something awesome on the little league field, I was proud of my accomplishments, and it felt good.

Then I was surprised to discover that pride is also considered a sin in some religious circles…Apparently that is even what got the devil kicked out of heaven.  That creates quite a dichotomy in a young boys mind.  I wondered how pride…the act of being proud, could ever be construed as something bad.

Turns out, there is another word…hubris.  Hubris really encapsulates everything that is supposedly wrong with pride. It is the foolish and irrationally corrupt and inaccurate sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments. 

Ok, we have all known someone like that who exhibits hubris, and may have even been guilty of it ourselves on occasion.  The way I interpret it, when pride gets out of hand, when it transcends reality and leads to someone thinking more of them selves than they should…pride turns into hubris, and thats bad.

Lets forget about hubris for a minute and talk about the good part of pride.  I think pride is an extremely useful emotion.  I think it builds confidence in people.  I think it facilitates personal growth.  I think pride makes people less fearful to try new things and courageously go forward into unknown situations, and thereby expand their potential as human beings.  In doing all of that pride feeds your self esteem and galvanizes your personal identity.  Those are all good things right?

I think pride is severely lacking in our society today.  Most people seem to be ok with being proud of things outside of themselves, but they seem to be afraid to express pride in themselves. 

I think there are several reasons for this.  People who are proud of themselves and their accomplishments or attributes are often criticized wrongly, for being arrogant and boastful.  Children are often admonished for “showing off”, there seems to be a sense that if one person feels great about themselves that it will make other people who aren’t them, feel worse about themselves. 

Thats why some schools no longer give out grades, because they don’t want to hurt anyones feelings with a bad mark.  Thats why kids get participation trophies just for showing up.  In some school sporting events I have witnessed, they don’t even keep score…can you believe that?  There are no winners or losers and everybody is the same.  Personally…I think that is complete garbage!

It’s not preparing a child well for life.  Because lets face it…people are not all the same.  There are winners and losers in life and we need to know how to deal with both scenarios.  How can you learn to be a gracious winner if you are never allowed to win?  How will you be motivated to improve yourself if you are never allowed to lose?

Not everyone is a great athlete or an exemplary student, not everyone is physically attractive, in fact all of us are horrible at something.  By the same token, all of us are good at something too.

So, as a modern culture we are systematically discouraging pride from childhood on.  I think this is directly contrary to our human spirit.  Our species got to where we are today because someone was always striving to be excellent, which led to innovations in science, art, agriculture, sports, architecture, you name it.  If you don’t have some people striving to be excellent at something, then all forward movement will stop.

Pride is part of the reward for that excellence, to be proud of ones accomplishments and deeds.  If we take that reward off the table, what will become of our species down the road? 

I will tell you right now, and I think that most people who know me will agree, that I have a healthy dose of pride.  I am unashamedly proud of many things.  I think my pride was instrumental in making me a confident person, and confidence is often interpreted as arrogance. 

I make this distinction between a confident man and an arrogant man;  A confident man can back up his claims, while an arrogant man cannot.  I have been accused of arrogance from time to time, but only by people who don’t know me well. 

People who know me well also know that I temper my pride with humility.  What that means is, I don’t let it go to my head.  I can be very proud of something without thinking I am better or more important than someone else.  For an example, I am extremely proud of my Norwegian heritage, it’s a big part of my identity, I am proud of the accomplishments and deeds of my ancestors…I use that feeling of pride to be the best I can.  I can do this without feeling superior to others because I recognize that there are amazing things in every heritage to be proud of, and at the end of the day we are all just people.

I guess thats the tricky part, pride with no humility can and will lead to hubris.  Apparently, that is difficult for some people to manage because they never learned or were not taught the virtue of humility.  I am only able to temper pride with humility because that is how I was taught, I was raised that way.  Humility then is a learned skill like most things are and if one man can do it, another one can.  If I can do it, you can do it.

Everything in life requires balance.  Too much of anything usually isn’t good.  Too much pride leads to hubris.  Too much courage leads to recklessness.  Too much seriousness compromises humor.  Too much confidence leads to arrogance.  Too much gravy on your potato’s makes you fat.  So our challenge as men, is to lead as balanced a life as we can. 

No one is going to do it for us though…we have to self-regulate.  That’s why it’s important to look in the mirror frequently and make an honest assessment of yourself and improve the things that need improving.  That is what this show is about, constant, perpetual improvement as a man.

I have a wide variety of listeners from many different countries now.  Pride is dealt with differently in different cultures.  Some of you listening will realize that you don’t have enough pride, you will see that is whats missing.  Others may realize that you don’t have enough humility, and you can work on that.  But the goal, the objective…is to make an accurate assessment and then strive to attain balance.

That’s it for today guys.  Now head out into the world and be a proud man!  Acknowledge your accomplishments, recognize the things you do well and then go ahead and feel proud about it.  At the same time, remember to have humility…you aren’t better than anyone else, you are just better than you were yesterday.

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