Dealing with Pride: A Guide Towards Humility.

By Revival Ojedapo

Many people see life solely in terms of superiority; so much that they fail to realize their own shortcomings. This stems from the overestimation of certain qualities that we possess, while holding other people in contempt. This negative trait is referred to as pride. It is not to be confused with the healthy kind of pride, like when a father is proud of his child, or a person proud of his nation and the likes. Though, it is easy to get it mixed up in certain situations. For example, when an hardworking athlete wins a gold medal and boasts in her exploit. One would wonder if she exhibits the healthy kind of pride or the unhealthy kind.

It is easy to get carried away by our achievements. In those moments, we tend to celebrate our victory as vigorously as we’ve worked hard to achieve it. So, we beat our chest and celebrate our exploits. It must be noted that pride (the negative) doesn’t necessarily manifest in such momentary outbursts. We may never know if such a person is being haughty or not. It would depend entirely on their consequent behaviour, and the kind of mindset they exhibit as result of their triumph.

While our achievements fill us naturally with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence, it could also become a vice when we begin to exalt ourselves needlessly. As Leon F. Seltzer puts it, “unhealthy pride depicts an overly favorable evaluation of self, based on giving oneself too much credit for accomplishments that, typically, are rather modest”. As a vice, pride tends to manifest itself overtime, and gradually overtake the person.

One might not even realize how deeply invested one is into it. I mean, a gold medal at the Olympics would bring a huge sense of achievement, that could give you a positive boost to last a lifetime. However, it could also breed a hubristic attitude, as mentioned earlier on.

Another misconception of unhealthy pride is that most people tend to think it is only manifested in the rich or well-to-do. Many people assume that a poor man can’t be proud. This is because it is not evident in his outlook, since he has very little to boast about. But, a humble appearance can well conceal a prideful mindset. It doesn’t mean that they can’t take pride in their families or work, but it must be the healthy kind of pride. It shouldn’t be in contempt of someone that’s better off. As Seltzer notes again, “unhealthy pride links to what’s generally deemed antagonistic, anti-social, or rule-breaking behaviours”.

We’d agree that the above listed behaviours are present across all classes. Sometimes, it could manifest in a person’s refusal to seek help or advice. Just sometimes, not everytime. This is because, accepting an offer of help may require a person to forsake a bigger value, depending on the situation. In which case, refusal to accept help may not be a symptom of pride.

Usually, we have no difficulty knowing when someone is being haughty or arrogant. Whereas, we rarely notice it about ourselves. As mentioned earlier, pride could be covered up with an outward cloak of fake humility. Pride doesn’t necessarily manifest in physical exclamation, and could easily go undetected. C.S Lewis said pride is “one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people… ever imagine that they are guilty themselves”. Suffice to say, it takes constant reflection of one’s own self to realize and check it. Most times, we are busy noticing it in other people that we fail to see it in ourselves. It can easily breed enmity and unhealthy competition.

Because of pride, marriages crash, businesses fail and several things fall into disrepair. Even the things that work are strained and just tolerated. It is a vice that shouldn’t be allowed to pass undetected beneath our conscious radar.

However, trying to help people get rid of their pride can be counterproductive, as it is an issue that is deeply connected to the self. But, by working on ourselves, we can leave an indelible impression on others. To do this, Professor Dyson says “you have to have structural humility, by which I mean, you put yourself in a position where you’re constantly being self-critical, where others are being critical of you, not in a destructive fashion, but in a healthy and uplifted fashion, so that you make certain that your particular instincts, ideas, identities, and intelligence, and gifts serve a greater good in not simply oneself, but at the same time that one is able to draw down from the fruit of one’s own work a sense of pride that is sustaining”.

So, you’d actually be killing two birds with a stone. You’ll not only be ridding yourself of a vice, but at the same time, you’ll find yourself enjoying the virtuous fruit of healthy pride. Humility is often regarded as the opposite of pride. Then, the person who is not proud is humble, and that is the goal. And, as C.S Lewis describes, a humble person would appear a “cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all”.

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