"Pride goes before a fall" is oft repeated. For several days now I've been practicing a mantra: Now I am typing an A, now a comma, now I am thinking of the word 'mistake'. And so on. Now I put back the toothpaste cap. That awareness creates a focus on the most immediate: Now I breathe in; don't forget to let it out, ha! And then, just last night, I dropped a cup. Smash! In the moment of it hitting the floor, scattering to shards, I was incredulous. I'd been quite proud of my new-found awareness. Ha! So much for pride.
Yet pride in how one drives, or sews a hem, or bakes a cake, or cleans up the broken shards, or tends to children, or serves the public is clearly healthy. It sustains the good and the best in us; it invigorates our practice. Healthy pride has its place. It ensures we appreciate our talents, promotes in us a sense of care with details, with organization, with contribution toward our community. Healthy pride allows us to be secure with our professions, with our relationships, with ourselves. Taking pride in cleaning the car, keeping up with the chores, doing one's homework, maintaining parents' trust, and being honourable has its place. Healthy pride creates a sense of energy being made vigorous. As Mandela famously quoted, "You do nothing by hiding your light."
It is arrogant pride that is the problem. Slogans that say we kick butt; games we play that have our children pridefully marginalizing each other; competitions that engender jealousy, spite, vengeance, and even dislike; these are the things that make the world ill at ease. Perfectionism at the cost of people, performances at the cost of participants, pride at the cost of another; it would seem obvious that we would prefer not to display such pride, but we do. We teach it. We use the terms of war to represent our winning and the trouncing of losing teams over public announcements, school-based intercoms, and our children and their children in turn hear this impetus to be better, more better, and the best, not of themselves, but of others. To put on "the best show ever" comes so easily off the tongue; at what cost to all the effort of all the other shows, ever, that the past should so be relegated to second rate? Arrogant pride wells up easily; our culture is not easily given to naturally doing one's very best and praying for the best opponent possible (indeed, praying for the best for the opponent) that we might learn from each other and in so doing improve our skills, improve ourselves. Pride would have us gloat. Pride would have us brag. Pride would have us be first. Pride would have us hurt when we lose. And we are dismayed, astounded, feel betrayed, feel the godlessness of it when the other is promoted above our own interests, especially if the other is clearly not as good as me! Not as good looking. Not as well dressed. Not as cultured. Not as...?
Healthy pride would have us taking care of each other. I want my ophthalmologist to take pride in her work. I want that the person grinding at the glass in my prescription lenses not just treat the task as just yet another pair of bifocals. Focus on what we do, now for now, and intention thereby to do the best we can, will still have its slip ups. Very evidently! And when the cup falls, and the shards scatter, one may even sense pride in the feeling that in the end, it really doesn't matter. There are other cups to be had, other games to be won, other people to best. So there, take that! I can even afford to smash another! Another thing, that is. I'll get you next time. You were just lucky! Or must pride come before every fall?