Is pride good?


Pride comes before a fall, goes a wise saying. But has that prevented us from indulging in this emotion? asks A. Radhakrishnan, as he humbly describes it.

When Rajesh Khanna the original superstar was at his peak, a film journalist commented that ‘his body weight and head weight will see to his downfall’, and it happened.

In Pride and Prejudice, a novel by Jane Austen first published in 1813, the story charts the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments, and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential.

King James Version of the Bible, Book of Proverbs 16:18 mentions, ‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall’. An excess of pride will cause mistakes leading to a setback or failure.

What is pride?
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. A foolish and irrational corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments isthe negative connotation, and the positive connotation, refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions. Thus, the corollary of pride is humility.

The word ‘proud’ comes from Old English prut, and probably from Old French prud, which means “brave, valiant”. It also encompasses pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfilment, satisfaction, sense of achievement; self-esteem, dignity, honour, belief in one’s worth, and faith in oneself.
Pride is sometimes viewed also as corrupt or as a vice, sometimes as proper or as a virtue. Aristotle identified pride (megalopsuchia), as the crown of the virtues, distinguishing it from vanity, temperance, and humility.

Some world religions consider pride as a fraudulent form, a sin. St. Augustine said it was ‘the love of one’s own excellence’, while to Meher Baba, it is ‘the specific feeling through which egoism manifests.”

Sometimes pride is good!
Pride in one’s abilities is known as virtuous pride, greatness of soul or magnanimity, but when viewed as a vice, it is often known to be self- idolatry, sadistic contempt, vanity or vain glory. Pride can also manifest itself as a high opinion of one’s nation (national pride), and ethnicity (ethnic pride).

In psychological terms, positive pride is “a pleasant, sometimes exhilarating emotion that results from a positive self-evaluation. Pride can be demonstrated by facial expressions and gestures like lifting of the chin, smiles, or arms on hips to demonstrate victory.

Pride can also be expressed behaviourally by adopting an expanded posture in which the head is tilted back, and the arms extended out from the body, an exhilarated pleasure and feeling of accomplishment. Pride can also be with positive social behaviours such as helping others, and outward promotion.

Exaggerated self-esteem is called “pride”. Carl Rogers observed that most people “regard themselves as worthless and unlovable.” Thus, they lack self-esteem. Hubris, an exaggerated form of self-esteem, is sometimes actually a lie used to cover the lack of self-esteem that the committer of pride feels deeply down.

Psychologically speaking, pride seems to have sway over the sentiment of friendship, but it appears to acquire some reinforcement in the case of already existent enmity towards someone. It would, relatively speaking, increase with the achievements of the person and may be a continuous source of danger to the intellectuals and others in this regard.

Pride means different things to different people. In Germany, “national pride”, often associated with the former Nazi regime is now considered poor taste. Asian pride originally fragmented, emerged prominently during European colonialism. Today, some Asians still look upon European involvement in their affairs with suspicion, while proudly remembering Asian empires. In the United States, ‘black pride’ is a slogan used primarily to raise awareness for a black racial identity, while white pride is a slogan used primarily for a white race identity. Gay pride refers to a worldwide movement and philosophy asserting that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In conventional parlance, vanity sometimes is used in a positive sense to refer to a rational concern for one’s personal appearance, attractiveness and dress, and is thus not the same as pride. However, it also refers to an excessive or irrational belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness in the eyes of others, and may in so far be compared to pride.

Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, Saint Olaf College asserts that religious traditions that survived the colonial experience have done so with a bruised and even battered sense of self. Colonialism undermined Hindu pride and the confident profession of a Hindu self-identity. Profound Hindu religious insights and ethical teachings were rarely commended. “I am proud,” said Swami Vivekananda to his Indian audiences, “to call myself a Hindu.”

Humility has deep theological roots in the Hindu tradition, in its sacred texts and traditions that free us from unfulfilling conceptions of self and enable lives of compassion, promoting work that aims to overcome suffering.

Prophet Muhammad considered pride a disease and the greatest sin in Islam. All human beings have the tendency to become proud. It could be so little that it becomes unnoticeable, and it could be in a large amount, which is why we always pray to Allah not to make us among the proud and arrogant people.

In Sikhism, Ahankar (pride), or hankar in the Punjabi language, is considered to be a greater evil than the other propensities. Ahankar may arise from one’s possession of beauty or power. Another cause could be that the individual becomes proud of his acts of charity or of some religious merit attained by him through pilgrimages.

Kabir says, “Thou thinks thyself to be great by tiny little deeds; but they who look upon others as small through words, thoughts, or deeds are cast in hell.”’ As Kant says “There was a time when I despised the masses who know nothing. But this blind prejudice disappears. I learn to honour men.”

In the teachings of Hatha Yoga, special attention is given to the eradication of pride. According to this school, “there is no friend higher than knowledge and no greater enemy than ahankar.” “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend,” said the late John R.W. Stott.

When pride diminishes and disappears, humility increases and looms large. Sri Chinmoy says, ‘In human life when we have something, immediately pride, vanity and many other undivine forces enter into us. We extol ourselves to the skies. But let us think of the example of a tree. When the tree is in full bloom, when it is laden with ripe fruits, when it really has something to offer the world, the tree bows down. If we can become one with the consciousness of a tree, we will feel that.


A.Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance journalist, poet, short story writer, Facebook addict who loves to makepeople happy.