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In Praise of Pride

by Beth on November 22nd, 2021

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, but is it really that bad? Pride is a positive emotion and there is a lot of research showing the benefits of experiencing pride. A sense of pride can motivate us to work to achieve our goals to better ourselves or to help others. Anticipating future pride increases performance, perseverance, and self-control in resisting temptation. In one study, participants who were told their scores on a cognitive test were especially high spent twice as long working on another task as participants who were not induced to feel pride. In another study, 40% of the people who were asked to think about how proud they would feel if they could resist temptation were able to refrain from taking a bite of cake. Only 19% of the people in the control group resisted the temptation to eat some cake.

So why is pride considered a sin? That’s because there are two distinct types of pride: authentic pride and hubristic pride. Authentic pride is feeling good about yourself, experiencing a sense of competence or accomplishment. You’ve worked to achieve your goal and you are proud of the result.

Hubristic pride involves egotism and arrogance, the feeling that you are better than others. Hubris is self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. It’s associated with insecurity and anti-social behaviors like aggression and dominance, whereas authentic pride is associated with confidence and pro-social behaviors like generosity and compassion.

Pride is good when paired with humility. It’s nice to do things that give you a sense of self-respect and satisfaction. Anticipating feeling proud can provide the motivation needed to learn to speak a new language or play a musical instrument, to get good grades or a promotion at work, to lose weight or get into shape.

Pride is bad when you feel your accomplishments make you superior to other people. When your drive to achieve is fueled by anxiety or a fragile ego. Recognizing that you may do some things well, but that you can’t be great at everything can help keep you humble. Hubristic pride may be a sin, but authentic pride is a virtue, not a vice.

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