Pride and humility. Mutually exclusive and polar opposite attributes of human character. But, do we conquer pride by striving for humility?
We all know prideful people and do not think highly of them. The inordinately high opinions of their own importance, merit, or superiority creates a discordant clash with reality. They annoy us. They frustrate us. They may even thwart our best intentions with their attention-seeking behavior.
Each of us also knows people who were genuinely humble. The humble do not seek status or rank. They may be meek, but they are rarely weak. The genuinely humble understand and leverage their talents and resources on behalf of others. The humble are not victims. Instead, they act with purpose. The humble are servants, but not subservient. These people are often gifted and giving in a modestly unassuming manner which garners the respect and admiration of those around them.
Our view of self lies at the core of these opposing behaviors. The prideful consider themselves more important and, therefore, worthy of elevation above others. By contrast, the humble consider themselves no more or less important than others and seek no benefit or advantage by their actions. The prideful have a high view of their own capabilities to influence people and events around them. The humble are quick to recognize the limitations of their own abilities and appreciate the contributions of others. And therein lies the secret antidote to pride… A grateful spirit that recognizes the value of others.
Allow me to explain by shifting attention to people who project false humility. These people know that humility is more valued than pride; so they attempt to counteract pride by acting humbly. However, fearing their humility will go unrecognized, they trumpet it at every turn, and in so doing, reveal the self-serving and ungrateful nature of their heart.
If we are brutally honest, we must each confess to at least the occasional prideful thought. Unfortunately, the naturally self-centered tendency of human beings also means that prideful thoughts sometimes pass unrecognized through our heads and even out of our mouths. Countering an unrecognized behavior is almost impossible. Fortunately, our best defense against pride is not consciously stamping out prideful impulses or striving for humble behavior. Instead, we merely need to establish an habitual spirit of gratitude to turn our hearts from self-centered pride to genuine humility. We may cultivate a grateful spirit if we start each day by expressing thanks for the blessings in our lives.
A shout out to Melvin Benson for the core concept of this post.