Post number 5 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Pride has a variety of meanings. One can be proud of oneself, or of others. One can be proud in the sense that they will suffer no criticism from others. Pride can be a flaw, one can be “too proud” so they see only what’s good about themselves or what they’re doing, at the expense of clarity on the work yet to be done. It’s important to take a degree of pride in what we do. There is no reason not to enjoy the fruits of our labours, and to appreciate the rewards we have earned. But we must not do so at the expense of a more rounded view which includes the problems we still face, the learning we still need to undertake. The growth we will always require.

I would suggest the opposite of pride is shame. Shame is an inverse kind of pride, a detraction from our self-image earned by actions we do not feel proud of, rather than gained by them. Shame is an emotion which can teach us a great deal – as pride reqards us, so shame chides us. But again, an excess of shame is not beneficial and can make us unbalanced people. I don’t suggest it’s wise to “cultivate shame” – only to feel it, to understand it and the lessons it contains. How can we wish to improve an aspect of our interaction with the world until we recognise it as imperfect?

For me, humility is an alternative to an excess of pride rather than opposite to it. We can be pleased with the humility we achieve – one could describe that as a form of pride gained in humility. But one cannot be “a proud person” whilst remaining humble. I feel there’s a great deal of pride to be gained in humble actions, and honestly I don’t see these elements as incompatible, or as elements on the same spectrum. I can be overly humble, and feel ashamed. And I can be humble in a correct proportion and feel proud.

Pride can separate us from those around us. When we place ourselves above others, even above our former selves, we ignore a very important and fundamental truth of reality; that we are all one. We are a continuous, contiguous element of that-which-is: the Force. I’m reminded of a key passage from the Tao Te Ching:

Don’t glorify heroes, And people will not contend.
Don’t treasure rare objects, And no one will steal.
Don’t display what people desire, And their hearts will not be disturbed.
Therefore, the Sage rules By emptying hearts and filling bellies,
By weakening ambitions and strengthening bones;
Leads people Away from knowing and wanting;
Deters those who know too much From going too far:
Practices non-action And the natural order is not disrupted.

Pride in excess encourages us to place ourselves “above” things in a similar way, and I agree with the message of the Old Master; it is unwise to hold anything in too high of an esteem – especially ourselves, who we know to be flawed in many important ways from experience, but similarly recognise as perfect, unique and beautiful in our singularity. Pride is something which must be held in balance, and as I said in my previous entry it is a weak mind which places itself in too high an esteem, or is too impressed by itself.

To put it bluntly, the hand that paints one’s masterpiece is the same hand that wipes one’s arse.

Times in my life where I’ve been proud have generally been moments where I’ve achieved something I didn’t believe myself capable of. The times that I have dealt with that pride the best have been those where I used the momentum to continue achieving, to live better, to do more. The moments where I have handled my pride shamefully have involved me crowing about how good I am, how well I’ve done, to stop achieving to figuratively admire myself in the mirror.

I guess as I move along in my life I have less and less time for pride, both in myself and in others. Sure, I enjoy the pride my children display in their endeavours, but I feel that’s where pride has its most important place; it’s a learning tool many come to dispose of when they reach maturity (and which plenty hold onto endlessly, in their ongoing immaturity), but for kids, pride is a well-deserved reward for accomplishing something personally challenging. At the same time, we can all call to mind the boastful kids who crow of their achievements while others struggle. And I imagine we all feel similarly about that kind of excessive, “loud” pride.

So pride is not a bad thing, in moderation. There is no shame in being proud of one’s accomplishments, but only so far as they don’t prevent us from endeavouring to go on accomplishing. Pride should not be an excuse to demean, belittle or otherwise attack others. Pride should not make us Proud, so to speak. We can be quietly pleased with things we do, but none of us can think ourselves “there”, not really. We all have stupid moments, weak moments, angry moments. We have plenty to be “ashamed of” (I’m trying to think of a weaker phrase as that does come over a little stronger than I mean it, but hopefully my meaning is clear in the context), and that should hold our pride in balance. I spoke in my last post about the erroneous notion of “getting there”. A proud person can think of themselves as “there”, or “getting there”, and that is a delusion.