The old saying ‘pride comes before a fall’ is no idle old wives tale. It is pride that creates innumerable problems for both ourselves and the rest of the world. Yet, like the proverbial camel unable to stop eating thorns, it is our pride that enslaves us to continuing doing the wrong thing or creating unnecessary unhappiness.
Our pride can create inflexibility. Because of our pride we are not able to change our mind, but instead we stick on a wrong course of action. We may know our initial decision is wrong, but, because of our pride we are unable or unwilling to back down and take a different course of action. We mistake this stubborness for strength, but actually it is a weakness because we are just unable to take a better course of action.
Always To Be Right.
If we have tremendous pride we don’t like to be proved wrong. This can cause us to justify wrong actions to ourselves. We may even come to believe that they are justified. But, we will spend an inordinate amount of energy in proving to others or ourselves we are right.
Pride makes us feel aloof and self-sufficient. We feel we can cope without the support, guidance or help of others. We may even try to do things by ourself so that we can claim all the glory for ourselves. But, when we take this solo approach we limit ourselves and create unnecessary difficulties and limitations. John Donne said ‘no man is an island’ But, our pride likes to make us think that we can be a unique person.
If our self worth is dependent on a sense of pride we become insecure and sensitive to the criticisms of others. Our pride requires constant support and constant bolstering. Pride can consciously or unconsciously encourage us to go fishing for complements. Our pride deeply enjoys flattery but cannot cope with criticism.
As Thomas Jefferson said:
“Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold.”
Pride invariable creates unhappiness. The feeling of pride is a false happiness. We get a temporary relief from achieving and being thought well of. But, this is unsustainable. Life throws slings and arrows whether we like it or not. Rather than trying to please the false ego we need to be at peace with ourselves whatever the circumstances.
A more subtle pride is a false modesty – an extreme self depreciation. Pride usually makes us feel we are extra special, really excellent. But, at other times it is our pride which makes us feel guilty and useless. Because we fail to live upto expectations or fail to achieve something, we feel personally a failure.
Alternative to Pride
The alternative to pride is an inner humility. We don’t make a display of our humility (as this can ironically create a sense of pride in how humble we are trying to be). However, if we give little importance to pride we will be able to:
- Benefit from the support and advice of others when it is helpful. At the same time, we will not be thrown by unfair criticism.
- We will get joy from the achievements of others.
- We will gain happiness from our progress and attempt and not just when we succeed.
- We will be able to admit mistakes without feeling guilty.
- We have much greater flexibility and will be much more easy to get on with. It is pride that it is the biggest obstacle in developing good relationships.
- We will value harmony more than being ‘Right’
Photo by Tejvan, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries.