Pride can be a good thing. A very good thing. It’s satisfaction in a job well done. It’s confidence, built on past experiences, that you’re capable of doing something great. It’s joy in being part of a community.
When you see your children learn and grow and develop the character traits you’ve fumbled so hard to instill in them, you’re proud of them. You’re happy for what they’re achiveing. You want to encourage them, support them, and help them be even more.
There there are those that take pride too far. They replace confidence with arrogance. Collaboration with competition. Their joy is swallowed up in jealousy.
What starts out as a strength—a tool to develop our self-esteem—can become a weapon to tear down every relationship we have. Here are five ways to keep pride from becoming a weakness.
C. S. Lewis said that pride (when taken to a weakness) doesn’t care about who you are, it only cares about comparing yourself to others. Suddenly, every success that someone else has is a threat to you. You start developing a scarcity mentality. In order for them to win, you have to lose. You don’t want that, so you fight back, seeking to win at their expense. Also not good.
In a word, the key is to see success as a collaboration, not a competition.
- Congratulate others on their achievements. You know how much you like being congratulated? Try doing that for others. It feels great! Watch for opportunities to extend sincere praise to coworkers, your wife, your kids, even complete strangers. Focus on seeing the good in others.
- Thank people for their help. You didn’t get where you are by yourself. Nobody thinks you did. When the boss congratulates you, acknowledge the contributions of your coworkers. You shouldn’t sound like you’re accepting an Academy Award; even a simple “Thanks. I had a lot of help.” will do. You can’t hog all the credit when you share it.
- Never stop learning. The more you know, the more you realize how little you know. Everyone around you knows more than you do about something. Find out what. Ask them about it. They’ll reciprocate. Teach each other. “Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”
- Serve others. Nothing lets you see the good in the world like service. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, help out with an after-school program, or just shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. When someone comes to you with a question, respond with the heart of a teacher. It’s hard to look down on someone when you’re busy serving and helping them.
- Develop an abundance mentality. The scarcity mentality says that there is a limited amount of pie. In order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. The abundance mentality says there is plenty of pie. It’s hard to get caught up fighting over how big a slice everyone gets when there’s plenty to go around and to spare. It can be hard to see things this way, especially when there genuinely is competition involved, but developing an abundance mentality will make a huge difference in your life.
Any strength becomes a weakness when you take it to an extreme. The trick is figuring out when you’ve reached the top of the mountain and are starting to go down the other side. It will probably take feedback from others to help you find the summit.
As a strength, pride is a good, positive emotion to feel. If you let a spirit of competition enter it, it will become your greatest weakness.