To Quote Jane Austen, to Be Proud Without Being Vain; Shedding One’s Unhealthy Pride, or Vanity

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Often I think, or muse, through writing. That is, I come to the blank page to explore what it is I’m thinking, even if the thought isn’t yet fully formed.

That’s the case with today’s thought, which is based on an old thought for millennium: Pride is the folly of man. Or some other ways of saying it that I see via Google, depending upon your belief system, is that pride is the beginning of sin (or root of all sin or pride comes before the fall) or the downfall of man.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve tried to shed the idea of pride, for it is a silly thing to carry and is more of a burden in that way. Pride is a short step, or fall, to arrogance and brutishness.

Of course, it’s an interesting line to walk. Pride is important in some measure because it can act as a bulwark against diminishing yourself internally, and allowing yourself to be diminished externally. That is, a healthy amount of pride would tell me that I deserve good things in life, as a good person, and that I shouldn’t accept a bad lot in life, whether that manifest as a relationship, a job or whatever else, because I have a low opinion of myself and think I deserve to martyr myself upon the altar of low expectations.

But pride also can act as a conduit to an inflated ego, to overestimate one’s thought of themselves on the scale of the universe. That is, put what you know one on side of a scale and put what what you don’t know on the other side of the scale. There is no comparison and that fact ought to humble us, not engender a deepening of one’s pride, which is actually an insecure sheltering of ignorance.

I take great pride in actions (especially over mere words) I take and/or contribute to and I don’t think that sense of pride is wrong. I’m not making an argument against pride, just its unhealthy cousin.

As I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve been more and more willing (not that I wasn’t before; it’s a matter of degree) to embrace the beauty of not knowing. The beauty of my obvious ignorance.

And something I’ve never reveled in is the idea of being “right.” Maybe I had a phase when I was first blossoming into an ideology at 15 or 16, but since then, I’ve only ever been concerned with what is the truth of the thing? I’m always reminded of my philosophy professor in college establishing the demarcation line for me: In a debate, the goal is to win; in an argument, the goal is to arrive at the truth. The former has never interested me, but the latter certainly does.

So, by necessity, if I’m endeavoring to explore the project of the latter, I must be humble, right? However, if I’m only narrowly focused on the former, then that’s how I can unknowingly (or maybe intentionally?) walk into the pitfalls of pride.

Importantly, what the latter allows space for that the former does not is the acknowledgement of being wrong. In the search for truth with a humble trot, I’m not always going to be right and it’s important to acknowledge that where and when applicable. Being wrong isn’t weakness, it’s just an obvious fact of existence and especially in our relationship with other social beings.

But if my concern is to be right? Well, then surely I can’t admit the error of my ways because then I lose and losing isn’t winning and not winning means I’m not right. Which to an overly prideful soul, that’s tantamount to one of the worst marks against it.

Perhaps the ugliest manifestations of pride is that by definition of being overly prideful, one can lose sight of the worth of others. That is, they are so fixated on safeguarding their own pride and self-worth that they can fall into the folly of devaluing others (often to further hoist themselves up) — to seeing this activity or that person as below them.

An unhealthy pride is a project built upon a false sort of caste system, adjudicated by one’s insecurity and leading to obviously bad outcomes.

I’m drinking a glass of delicious red wine while I’m writing this after polishing after four pieces of leftover pepperoni pizza and I’ve been rather lethargic today, so who knows if I’m making sense to you at this point. As such, how about I pivot to a musing-ending quote?

Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice, which admittedly I have never read, said, “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

Perhaps that’s it after all. The prideful person, contrary to how they boast about not needing the warm comfort of other people’s opinions, are the most concerned with what other people think.

Interesting, that.

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