An exploration of Pride

(This is the first in a series of articles.)

The first of the seven passions, or seven deadly sins as described by Caroline Myss in her work, “Defy Gravity” is the passion of pride.

Lets be clear about how I am defining pride. I am speaking of the experience of having an excessively high opinion of yourself. I am also including in this definition the feeling/action of superiority or being more superior than another; boasting about accomplishments (vainglory); seeking admiration for your appearance and achievements (vanity); arrogance, which is when you feel so much more superior than others that you show them disdain; hubris… an excessive pride.

Not everyone in the course of history has seen pride as a sin/bad. Aristotle saw pride as a virtue. To be proud of oneself. The distinction for this article is that when I live in pride as a passion, I am devoid or absent of humility. It is about me, myself and I, with no thought to you, or others. One can be proud of one’s accomplishments and very humble. But one cannot be  proud to the level they are superior to, and still have humility for. When we act from pride we pleasure in shaming others, reducing others, making them less than we are. Like vampires, we feed our need to feel better about ourselves at the cost of having another feel bad.

For the last week I have sat in an acute awareness of how pride shows up in my life. Oh…my…gawd….!!! Ouch.

I am an expert at superiority. Have the masters degree to prove it. I am of superior intelligence for sure, which is why I can be so deeply humiliated when I feel stupid, or am exposed for being stupid.

(If you want to find out where pride shows up in your life, follow the humiliation trail.)

I remember when my marriage was falling apart and my husband called me stupid, and really meant it. His words were like a hot knife to my self worth. I recall this as being such a humiliation that I began to see that I simply could not live a life with someone who thought of me so. Now, some 20 years later, and with a bit more wisdom under my belt, I see that he was not referring to all of me, just an aspect of me. At the time I was too too sensitive to get that. Happily I have also learned to laugh at myself and my blonde bimbo moments. And I have those on a daily basis. These days, for the most part, without the shame. However, in doing this exercise of really sitting in pride I am watching myself at far more subtle levels than usual, and no doubt about it, I still have a sensitivity around my ‘intelligence”.

In my endless personal development work I definitely have had moments where I feel superior to lesser ‘evolved’ souls. I have (and still do) suffered form altitudinal elitism. YUK! It is quite a common syndrome, sadly. What is needed here is not pride and hubris, but compassion.
How altitudinal elitism shows up is in thoughts or comments such as…
“I have done all the work, so I am better than..”
“I am more evolved than…so they are less than me..”
Or worst…
“You just don’t understand…(implying that they do not have the capacity/ability/depth etc)

Taking superiority a small step further and we have arrogance. Hmm..I am quite expert in this one too. How many people have I brushed off with disdain? Oh, I hate to think. Yet I loath it when people do this to me….treat me like a speck of fluff of their pristine suit. Makes a very good case for karma. Or the simple adage…treat others as you wish to be treated.

Here is another way pride shows up…
“Doing x is beneath me.” In the wonderful movie Gandhi, there is a scene in the early phase of Gandhi’s transfiguration from a lawyer in Africa to a Saint in India, where he asks his wife to rake and clean the latrine. She refuses. They argue. This is pride speaking.

I am also quite clever at vainglory, boasting about my accomplishments. I am aware that behind my doing this I am seeking admiration, acknowledgment. Sometimes I do share my accomplishments for other reasons devoid of pride…to teach, to inspire…but these are all adding to the experience of the other, versus wanting ‘my’ experience to be the focus.

Now that my pride radar is up I am catching myself out more and more. Subtle little thoughts like my superior status because I am fit, I exercise…I know this or that…not a day goes by now where I do not get to see my pride play its hand. However, I am pleased to say that by becoming aware I am making different choices. Far from perfect….far far…and moving up…

If we go deep below the surface, and follow the shame and humiliation trail…the places you are most ashamed to reveal to anyone, including self, you will root out how pride plays a major hand in your life.

Tell me about money? Your bank account? How much debt? Credit? Income?…
Tell me about sex…oh…this is a can of worms, but you get my point?
Or your body image? How does aspects of your body cause you shame?
Where are you most embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated?
What do you find impossible to talk about because it would shame you?

I have maintained that when we take what shames us, and bring it from the dark places we seek to keep it, into the light, you will know you are healed of this shame when you are able to speak to anyone about it with zero charge. I love zero charge…it means that I am lighter, not just with ‘light’ but lighter in metaphysical weight. Less baggage. Love less baggage. Free…

Or as written in The Course in Miracles, “In my vulnerability, I become invulnerable.”

Taking pride out from ourselves, we have ethnic pride, and national pride. There is nothing wrong with healthy national pride, or pride in your sporing team. It is when the shadow of superiority and righteousness enters the fray that we have trouble…and this trouble may be deadly. Pride brings down countries. Observe the cost to the United States for its pride and hubris. The tragedy is that it was born, by the European settlers, out of humility and an escape from pride. But its story is an old one, told many times through out history, of the fall of greatness through pride, both at the individual and collective level.

I have learned much from sitting in this self inquiry…and will continue to observe pride in my life..and the possibility of making a different choice.

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