When Pride Gets in the Way

There are many occasions and circumstances in which pride provides an empowering incentive for us to make the decisions we do: pride in our accomplishments, pride in who we are as individuals, pride in the principles by which we live. But pride—to be specific, false pride—can keep us from speaking up or making choices that are the right ones for us. Examples such as 1) a refusal to admit we were wrong, 2) strident beliefs that holding on to what we have is more important than what we need, or 3) an unwillingness to try again when earlier attempts have failed. And then there are those instances when we erroneously ascribe more shame to a disappointment or struggle than it merits because our pride has been hurt.


To me, one of the most tragic variations of this theme is when our pride prevents us from trying again because that renewed risk of failure feels so treacherous. A recent episode of Downton Abbey brings this to mind when Mabel Lane Fox tells her former affianced, Lord Gillingham, that she hopes they will resume their relationship even though he spurned her in order to pursue a (failed) romance with Lady Mary.


MABEL: I don’t want to know what you see in Mary. I just want you back.

TONY: I do admire you for saying that.

MABEL: I’d rather be happy than proud.


It’s no small endeavor to express hope unabated by prior rejection. However, it’s this same show of vulnerability that people find so touching. Our hearts go out to someone who takes that risk; we sympathize and admire them. We want to take their hand. It’s not that making ourselves vulnerable is a life or death matter, but our pursuit proves that something is missing in our lives, something we very much want. Same goes for re-booting. What’s tragic is when people are too prideful (ie frightened) to try. Mabel continues to love Tony despite his preference for Lady Mary. “I’d rather be happy than proud,” she humbly explains. Good for her.


When in your life have you summoned the courage to set aside your pride? What made you take that risk? Are you glad you did? Where is pride getting in your way, today?


False pride creates big impediments to living a better life. It can keep us from moving past old hurts; it can prevent us from repairing important relationships. It can confuse us, sending us down dead ends. Like a malicious Greek chorus, pride can whisper that we should do “this” when what we really want is “that.” A deadly sin, indeed.


A different version of pride can spring from an exaggerated sense of responsibility. I know a lot of people (and include myself in this group) who have fallen into the trap of believing that they are the one person who can really get the job done—you know, the way it “should” be done. “Everyone is counting on me,” we tell ourselves. “It’ll all fall apart if I don’t.” This is wrong headed thinking for many reasons, plus, it places an unreasonable burden on our shoulders. Even in an ER there are back up docs! Nobody is irreplaceable, I don’t care how many good reasons you have for believing this.


The truth is that being dispensable is a very good thing! At the end of the day, we’re all expendable and we will expire. So, isn’t it a positive for others to share the same skillsets we have? Isn’t it a favor to know someone else can pick up the load? The false pride of believing that it is our sole responsibility to do X hurts us, hurts those depending on us, and can prevent them and us from making the strides we need to make. It shackles us to a fixed dynamic.


There’s also a false pride that demands we have all the answers at the ready. I theorize that much of this problem is linked to Western culture. Now, while I’m all about the chop-chop and crave a fast delivery time as much as the next schmo, even I recognize that the way we’re living has fostered societal impatience. The idea of waiting for an answer becomes more and more foreign; any perceived delay makes us feel like we’re losing ground. We’re told that “not knowing” is a source of shame, an indication of serious inadequacy. Any answer is better than none, right? Wrong. In fact, most of us don’t have ready answers about who we are or what we truly want, but our pride tells us we should.


Homework assignment: What is it you wish to do? Who is it you want more of in your life? Get out there and make yourself vulnerable. Be ok with not knowing what happens next. You’re a different person now with different needs and different capabilities than ten years ago. Give yourself the room to be who you are TODAY! I promise, you won’t go crazy and abandon all good sense or responsibilities. Do what is necessary to make some room to breathe. Don’t let your pride suffocate you.

 Greek chorus


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One Response to “When Pride Gets in the Way”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good one

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