Pride and humility are two of the strongest and most misunderstood feelings and attitudes we experience in the course of our human existence.  Pride is usually discussed in one of two completely opposite contexts.  On the positive side, we may take pride in our work, in our parenting or in our achievements.  Pride in this sense reflects a healthy sense of self-esteem. We feel good about what we are doing or what we have done.

Our feelings of personal pride may derive from our own internal validation, though it frequently arises from praise, validation or recognition from others. Of course, you can get all of the validation from others that anyone would want, but if you don’t believe the affirming feedback and fail to internalize the positive input you will not experience a feeling of pride.

On the negative side, pride is often viewed as a personal flaw, an attitude that can alienate you from others and be a barrier to many positive outcomes.  In this context, pride is associated with being certain that you are right and others are wrong or holding a persistent belief that you are intrinsically better than other people.

Humility is also a misunderstood concept.  Humility is often equated with humiliation. Humiliation is the experience of being demeaned or degraded by another and is an extremely undesirable and emotionally painful experience. Exposure to frequent or prolonged humiliating experiences can be psychologically, emotionally and spiritually damaging.

Sometimes, humility is seen as negative and is equated with an attitude of passivity and not “making waves”. It is often misunderstood as allowing other people to trample to on your rights and dignity.  Many people see being humble as being “wimpy”. However, humility is viewed as a desirable quality in many religious and spiritual traditions.

In this positive context, humility is about not always having to be right, admitting one’s failings and admitting our relative powerlessness over many aspects of life.  It is about viewing ourselves as “right-sized” rather than as being so important and special. No one human being is worth more than another and humility helps us keep this in mind. The attitude of humility can be a very positive personal attribute.  Let’s discuss our ideas about pride and humility:

  • What are your associations to the words pride and humility?
  • What about your life are you proud of or do you take pride in?
  • What experiences have humbled you in a good way?
  • Is it possible to be both proud and humble at the same time?