Life is full of obstacles. But most of them are external to us: Illness, death, divorce, job loss, and family troubles. You get the picture. But I want to examine an internal obstacle, one that is often difficult to see within us and very easy to see in others. Pride. But what is pride? Isn’t it a good thing? Let’s look a little closer.
A lovely nearby school has a motto that has been bothering me.
Their motto is: Friendship, Pride and Respect. It sounds innocent enough, but the use of the word “Pride” is what sits uneasy with me.
We hear that it’s important to take pride in your work, and take pride in your appearance. Yet, pride is listed as one of the 7 deadly sins. Holy scriptures talk about how civilizations were lost and people fell because of pride. Prophets old and new warn of pride.
“Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons.” ~ The Gita, XVI. 4
So just what is pride? Why do some people aspire to cultivate more of it, while wise sages warn us to stamp it out?
Clearly we have a conflict of definitions.
Some people use pride in a positive way. And for our purposes let’s replace that positive version of the word with ‘self respect’, ‘dignity’ or being conscientious. All good things.
And let’s define the sinful side of pride as Ego. That is, comparing yourself to others, putting your self above others. Being boastful, arrogant or conceited. With those definitions sorted, let’s continue. Why am I so bothered?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic because of a book I read,
“Ego is the Enemy” By Ryan Holiday.
He says that Ego is a conscious separation from everything. We pit ourselves against others.
Isn’t that interesting! The very purpose of yoga is connection to everything. Yoga seeks to connect our body to our spirit, and our consciousness to other people, and to God.
Ego seeks validation and status. Ego wants likes, and followers, recognition. Ego and pride can make us un-teachable. You can’t learn if you think you already know it all.
We need to be humble in order to learn. Be an eternal student. The one, who learns the most, grows the most. And growth is the hallmark of a happy and productive life. You will not find answers to improve if you are too conceited to ask the questions.
Ego is defensive and tells us we don’t need to improve.
Ego makes us hostile to feedback.
Pride tells us we shouldn’t have to put up with this.
C.S. Lewis warns, ‘Beware of pride. The proud man is always looking down and cannot see what is above him.’
The proud man cannot effectively commune with God. Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “…seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.)
The central feature of pride is enmity— Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.”
Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, vain, puffed up, and easily offended. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.
We can find warnings about Pride if we turn to the Bible.
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.
In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)
We see enmity toward our fellowmen everywhere. We see it in the parking lot, the office and even in our families.
We see people daily trying to elevate themselves above others and diminish them.
Here’s the tricky part. Pride is easy to spot in others but rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us.
There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.
Any time you think you are better than someone else or you are judging someone, that is pride. It’s not always relegated to the man who has the shiny car and is hoping for admiring glances. The person who knowingly scratches the car is being prideful, because they are comparing themselves.
Pride does not have to be boastful. We can be proud even when looking at someone who we perceive has more than us. That man you see getting out of his flashy sports car, and you smugly think to yourself, ‘I bet he never spends time with his family.’ Or the woman with the perfect body, ‘I bet she’s had some work done.’ Or ‘That outfit is a bit skimpy.’
Sometimes we are the most ego driven when we feel we have a lot to prove. Those that feel confident with their accomplishments and who they are can usually control their egos more masterfully.
The proud are easily offended and hold grudges.
Have you ever witnessed someone in a queue say, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’
Real people of importance and those in real positions of power don’t need to say things like that.
The proud withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
The proud are not easily taught. They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.
Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees. Pride is the universal vice. So how do we overcome this weakness?
The first step is becoming aware of when we are having prideful thoughts. An excess of pride may cause you to think you don’t need a daily yoga practice. It may cause you to compare yourself to other people in your yoga class. It may even cause you to avoid your practice altogether because you feel you’re not good enough and don’t want to embarrass yourself. Let go of all that. Allow yoga to provide that process of stripping away the natural man and getting back to your true self, your divine self.
When we say the words ‘Namaste’ we are saluting the divine in others and in ourselves. May we strive to more fully see this divinity, and let go of the struggle. Be one with all.
Next, let us choose to be humble. The antidote for pride is humility. Rejoice in your talents and accomplishments, but in a way that is modest. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.
“Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.” (Alma 32:16.)
We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, valuing them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement.
We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us.
D&C 64:10. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
We choose to be humble when we see another person’s point of view. When we give someone the benefit of the doubt. When we allow people to make mistakes that are different to the ones we habitually make.
There is a bumper sticker doing the rounds which says ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently to you.’ We each have failings, let’s be more gracious towards each other.
Thomas S Monson has said
“Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges, which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.
Charity has been defined as the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, … and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”
The upside is that when we let go of all this comparing, judging, and criticizing. We feel connected to other humans. And it is in the times of greatest connection that our greatest happiness is found.
By Natalie Prigoone