©2021 by Vernon Miles Kerr and VernonMilesKerr.com
In today’s society, at least in America, we are cajoled, urged and lambasted to have “pride.” Pride for our race, pride for our gender (or lack of same) and pride for our school, are only a few examples. We’ve probably all seen the little plastic inserts adorning chain-link fences, outside grade schools. The colorful messages spell-out “Bulldog Pride,” “Warrior Pride,” “Monarch Pride,” “Crusader Pride” etc.
Even as a child we hear it. As we walked in our neighborhood, my own grandma opined about ill-kempt, un-mown front lawns, “Those people have no pride.” She was a church-going Christian, by-the-way.
Which brings us to the thesis of this piece: Why do we view pride as something positive when the Bible and several other philosophical and religious traditions have said the pride is something to be avoided?
“Develop the mind of equilibrium. You will always be getting praise and blame, but do not let either affect the poise of the mind: follow the calmness, the absence of pride.”(Gautama Buddha, Sutta Nipāta)
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”(Proverbs 11:2)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”(Proverbs 16:18)
“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”(Proverbs 8:13)
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”(1 Peter 5:5)
“And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster”(Quran 31:18)
“It shall be said: Enter the gates of hell to abide therein; so evil is the abode of the proud”Quran 39:72)
“Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one”(Quran 40:35)
In our society, “pride” is supposed to be positive but when one group or another demonstrates “pride,” it is often with an in-your-face, chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. The crowd is defying society to accept them,”just as we are.” Such acceptance and mutual respect should be a “given” in America, but we all know, it is not.
We should all agree that people in a minority-demographic have absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of the random twist of fate that put them there. But like so many things in America needing attention, we over-compensate by bringing forth a ridiculously big counter-attack that—rather than help—tends to harden the position of both sides. Minds and hearts are rarely changed by force, only by logic.
When we say “pride” today, is it a different kind of pride from that spoken of by the ancient sages, above? Or is our society so turned upside-down that we call good evil and evil good? Telling grade school children to have “pride” in their school seems akin to giving out “participation” trophies. It can do nothing but instill a sense of entitlement to be worshipped by others, rather than just respected by others. Overkill.