Understanding the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ kinds


My 15-year-old grandson and I had an interesting discussion one recent afternoon when he was visiting with me in my home. Papa Ted was in Amarillo taking care of some business, and Brendan asked me about the word “pride.” From our conversation and giving the subject some thought, I have decided that it is indeed a difficult word to completely understand and control, and an even more difficult one to explain to a teen who was genuinely interested in knowing the answers to his questions.

All of us have at least one friend that borders on egomania. Everything, and I do mean everything, they do is the very best, or at least better than what friends and family can do. They have the nicest home, the best furnishings, unequaled taste, the safest auto on the road, a job that is just too perfect, the most unusual and dramatic travels, coolest friends, and on and on. They have invested well and have few worries.

All of us know that no one is perfect. We all have our flaws. The Bible teaches that, and our own humanity enforces it each day we live. So what about pride? How much is good and how much is bad or sinful?

I have always taught my kids to be proud of their accomplishments, their gains, their struggles when overcome, meeting a tough goal, and to have pride in themselves as people. I don’t want them to think they are perfect because God knows they are not. One of the things I’ve often found myself saying as one or the other leaves the door is this: “Remember who you are and Whose you are.” It has a double meaning to us. I want them to know that the family name they represent is important to me and it also reminds them that they have claimed to give their hearts and lives to the Lord Jesus, and that they should live like it before other people.

I’ve had employees and coworkers that needed to have more pride in their person and in their work, and like you, I’ve worked with a few who could take it down a notch. I tried to encourage that along the way.

Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings, according to the more popular dictionaries. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging. Philosophers and social psychologists have noted that pride is a complex secondary emotion that requires the development of a sense of self and the mastery of relevant conceptual distinctions. We can also have ethnic or national pride in our country or state. Most Texans have a whole bunch of pride in our state.

One of the best definitions I have found for the wrong kind of pride came from St. Augustine. He defined it as “the love of one’s own excellence.” When viewed as a virtue, pride in one’s appearance and abilities is known by some as virtuous pride, greatness of soul, or magnanimity.

This important word is worthy of some study time and sincere evaluation of how much of each kind of pride we are harboring in our lives today. Just how much do we talk, think or write about our own gifts and goodness, and how often do we praise others?

This column probably should come with a bit of warning, too. The Bible teaches in Proverbs 11:1 and 2, “A false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. When pride cometh, then cometh shame, but with the lowly is wisdom.” We read in the same book in Chapter 8, Verse 13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate.”

Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.