Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pride: Competing for Self Esteem

I don't think of myself as an overly proud person but CS Lewis wrote something about pride in Mere Christianity that struck close to home. He said that we loathe pride when we see it in someone else but we often fail to recognize it in ourselves. He said that "the great sin" of pride, one of the seven deadly sins, is essentially competitive. If we're proud, we don't just want to be rich, we want to be richer than others. We don't just want to be good looking, we want to be better looking than others. 

Generally speaking, pride is defined as conceit or an excessively high opinion of yourself. Pride also describes other types of feelings that aren't necessarily bad.

Merriam-Webster definition of pride: 1) a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people, 2) a feeling that you are more important or better than other people, or 3) a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc. 

It is healthy to respect yourself and to expect to be respected by other people. Feeling good about accomplishments is not a bad thing either, though excessive boasting turns people off. The kind of pride people find offensive is the attitude that you are better than other people. I don't think that I am more important or better than other people, however my desire to be respected and accepted by other people causes unnecessary struggles to preserve my self esteem. Yet I spent too many years thinking I wasn't good enough not to fight perceived threats to my feelings of self-worth.

Lewis said that if you want to find out how proud you are, ask yourself, "How much do I dislike it when other people  snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?" I have to admit that I dislike these things a lot. There have been times in my life, especially in relationships with women, when I have been on the receiving end of snobbery - being snubbed, treated like I'm invisible. It wounds your pride. It makes you question whether there is something wrong with you or whether you did something wrong.  And you get upset, because you know there isn't and you didn't.

In Signature Sins, Michael Mangis makes the distinction between outward and inward pride. Outward pride is shown by being vain, arrogant, haughty, condescending or indifferent to the desires of other people.  Signs of inward pride are perfectionism or being obsessed with what other people think about you.

The key to overcoming pride of the outward kind is to develop humility. What if you already have humility but find yourself caring too much about what other people think about you? What if you find yourself competing to keep your self-esteem intact against an opponent who wants to bring you down?
  1. Make a list of everything you value about yourself and look at it when you find your self-esteem being threatened. 
  2. Don't take being snubbed personally. Although the arrogant or snobbish behavior may be directed at you, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. The snob may feel insecure. Disrespecting you is an attempt to prove their superiority.
  3. Don't spend unnecessary time with people like this. It's toxic to your sense of self-worth.
  4. When you do have to be around people who think they are better than you, be friendly. Be overly gracious. That's taking the high road.
  5. Remember that God loves you for who you are. No one can take that away from you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.


  1. I think it's important to maintain a balanced view of yourself and others. You need to be aware of your strengths, if you don't know what they are you won't use them to the best of your ability. But you also need to remain aware of your weaknesses and the strengths of others in order to maintain a sense of humility.

    I think that perhaps worse than pride is a lack of self-esteem. Because life will eventually burst your pride, but some people go a lifetime without learning to love and appreciate themselves. And of course no one has committed suicide because of loving themselves too much.

    During your readings, perhaps you might read about Saint Francis of Asissi. He fought against pride by striving to go lower and lower in the eyes of others. But the more humble he was, the more elevated he was in the eyes of others. I'm not sure if you have a Kindle or other e-reader, but Amazon carries a free biography on him by Father Candide Chalippe, and another for $0.99 by G.K. Chesterton. I personally found them both to be worth a read.

  2. I think it is important to have a balanced view of pride too; that's why I say it isn't necessarily bad. Today the sermon at my church was on Philippians 2:1-4, a passage about imitating Christ's humility - look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. I'm trying to understand my own pride because it can be the motivation behind other sins - like getting angry because someone isn't respecting you enough.