Thursday, July 2, 2015


I'm on a kick about emotions lately. And so, pride!

Brandon Steiner, who seems to be famous and successful and that's all I know about him, says that pride is bad because it stops a man from making three kinds of statements that he needs to be able to make in order to thrive.

  1. “I made a mistake” 
  2. “I need help”
  3. “I don’t know” 

That's good stuff. (I say kinds of statements because these three examples stand for a wide variety of possible statements.) You need to be able to make those sorts of statements, although you need to exercise some care about whom you say them to (I'll get back to this). But is it really pride that stops us from saying these things?

If we start, as we tend to do in the Christian/post-Christian west, with the belief that pride is not only a bad emotion but the very worst emotion, that makes it easy to see pride as the cause of bad things. If we further make a point of contrasting pride with humility, then it seems only too obvious that pride would prevent us from making those three kinds of statements.

But there are other ways of thinking of pride. If we think of pride as the opposite of self-hatred, then we can begin to see a way to another approach. Now, we might object that the person seething with self-hatred, whatever their other faults, would be only too ready to tell us they have made mistakes, need help or don't know. That is true, but I think it opens the door to considering something else, for the person seething with self hatred lacks shame and I think it's shame that prevents us from making those sorts of statements and not pride.

We can easily imagine the person who knows full well that they don't know something or that they made a mistake and is unable to admit because they are terrified at the thought of others thinking they are stupid or weak. And that isn't pride. Furthermore, it seems obvious to me that the proud person is precisely the one who could admit not knowing something, needing help or having made a mistake because they don't fear being diminished in the eyes of others. The proud man knows that knows many things so admitting that he doesn't know what, for example, a circuit breaker is will be easy for him. Perhaps he's never had to deal with one before, a not unlikely scenario.

At the same time, I'd argue that we need sufficient pride to reveal things to safe people. Not everyone has your best interests at heart and there are some kinds of weaknesses that could be used against you to shame you publicly and the list of people willing to do that is very long indeed.

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