Libby Anne and Dan Fincke at Patheos have a pretty fantastic series going that stresses engagement and civic thinking. They’re both part of the atheist/skeptical community (as am I), and have been putting out biweekly prompts that ask other bloggers to consider ethical and civic questions of importance.
This week’s prompt is about pride, the value of pride and the nature of pride.
I have a peculiar relationship to pride. I live in Minnesota, and here in the great Midwest, we don’t really do pride. Bragging is anathema. The humble brag rules, and being too proud is definitely considered weird. In general, I have fairly negative feelings towards pride, although I don’t view it as a sin or vice in the same way that I was raised to view it (in a Catholic school). In my mind, pride always has the ring of bragging or being overly self-involved. I realize that this is not the dictionary definition of pride, but it is always how I have considered pride. Being proud of someone else is completely acceptable, but being proud of yourself seems immodest.
I do think that something like positive pride is hugely important, but I would prefer to call it self-respect. This is the personal sense that you have done something well, and feel good about yourself. You can recognize your positives and accomplishments. That is great. That is something we need to cultivate more of, since the culture that I live in is one of “never good enough”. Pride involves showing it to others in my mind. And sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes you want to share, sometimes it’s healthy and wonderful to share. But the important kernel is the internal self-respect that says you acknowledge yourself as good.
In general, I think that some measure of modesty is great. It’s quite easy to put others down by bragging about your own accomplishments, it often makes you look foolish, and recognizing where you can improve is great. I think that modesty is 100% compatible with self-respect, because self-respect is internal, and modesty is about how you broadcast things to the outside world. But as always, there needs to be a balance between these two extremes. Modesty helps you to respect and care about others. It greases social wheels. It makes you more approachable. But self-respect (even sometimes branching into pride) helps you care for yourself by letting you acknowledge and honor the things that you have done, by allowing you to rest at times, and by giving you an emotional reward when you do well.
Sometimes pride does serve a social purpose, like pride in someone else or your group. Generally, I believe being proud of ‘your team’ or ‘your country’ is a little silly, since you have no actual ownership of whatever they have done. Being proud of someone else usually means to me that you respect them for it, that you feel they’ve done well. It’s more of a congratulations than anything else, but on a deep level, a level that says you feel happy to be associated with them. I wish that there was a word for this other than pride, because it seems to have a distinctly different flavor to it than personal pride. Where personal pride is about feeling good about yourself or telling others about what you’ve done, pride for someone else is about recognition of what they have done.
There is also group pride, particularly for marginalized groups. I really can’t speak to racial or ethnic pride, because I am not part of a marginalized racial group, but as a woman and as someone with mental illness I can’t understand feeling pride over those identities. Again, pride to me holds an element of boastfulness. There is nothing to boast about with these things. I cannot understand being proud of anything you have not achieved yourself. I do feel compassion, respect, care, and community for the other people in these groups and for my role in these groups. I feel that for many of these people I’m proud of them for surviving. But I am not proud of my status as a member of these groups, because for me pride is reserved for actions, and it is to be earned. However where an emotion plays a positive role in helping someone to deal with their marginalization, I certainly can’t speak against it. For other marginalized individuals, pride might be very important, and I have absolutely no right to take that away from them.
In general, I wish we had more words for pride, to distinguish the emotions that it contains. There are very valuable elements to pride; recognizing oneself, giving oneself permission to rest or recuperate after an accomplishment, feeling good about oneself, respecting oneself, or recognizing a good thing another person has done. In general, I feel that all of these things can be subsumed under respect, because I don’t see what in addition to respect there is about “positive pride”. The prideful element that seems to be added is the boastful, bragging, or raising yourself over others. I’ve never understood the importance of tooting our own horns. Whenever I see patriotism touted as positive, or ethnic pride, I’m simply left wondering what for? Can’t we illustrate our goodness through our actions instead of obsessively patting ourselves on the back? There’s got to be a way to feel good about yourself without throwing a parade.
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it is interesting that you contrast pride with modesty, as if they were related directly. I would suggest that bragging may be immodest, but that one may have pride and modesty in the same breath. Akin to the notion of valour, or in relating with ones self. I believe you can be proud of the things you are doing for reasons you feel valid, much as you would for another or a group, in understanding and relating with them more closely.
To feel though that this is somehow more valid, or more important, to let your pride turn to vanity, that to me seems the conflict. When we are not only proud, but we are vindicating, zealous, destructive even. Proud itself to me seems to bear a sense of appreciation, of doing what you feel is good to a good extent. I would submit if you don’t feel proud for what you do, then I would explore what it is I am doing and see what i could do to better my goals and approach with what I feel and know to be right. At the very least I would be more prone to learning and relating to my mistakes so I can grow and be better for the world around me, as much as for my own experience.
What do you think, can there be pride without vanity? Can you feel comfortable with yourself, appreciate yourself, appreciate your being, doing, choices, freedom, existence and not be vain?
One tricky point I find in many circles is when you can speak of what you can do to help, without others conferring values and expectations on it. That one may be capable or good at something is not necessarily to say they are better, just the capacity to help with certain aspects. Much as I would hope that the farmer growing crops is a good farmer, for their hard work, and hopefully passion. Quite likely they are better than I at such.
As a matter of fact, there is a decent amount of work on how one must actually know about the same amount it takes to be good at something to know whether they are any good at it all in the first place. I believe a name for this is the Dunning-Kruger Effect, though it has been spoken to for centuries. Though I think the better part of the issue lies in people relating their abilities in certain venues or even in practices to their personal value, this too likely plays a role and makes the whole thing a mite funnier I think.