Instinct For Pride

Of all the emotions, pride perplexes me the most.

People are proud of all kinds of things, apparently nothing can escape it. People feel proud of their inborn talents, their looks, their perceived race, their ethnicity, their nationality, their family and kin, their ancestry, their religions, their jobs, their houses, their cars, the nice outfit they bought recently, and on and on. Some people feel proud for just being human, instead of some other animal… or else just proud for existing, as if surviving rather than dying is a great accomplishment of personal merit.

Pride is such a natural and simple emotion. No one has to learn how to be proud. 

A kid draws a picture, builds a tower of blocks, climbs a tree, or whatever. The unselfconscious response of the kid is to be proud and the kid will beam with a confidence in his or her greatness… which will then make the kid’s parents proud as well, and so it is a whole lovefest of pride.

Even when kids are away from adults, pride is a driving force in peer behavior. Oh, the things a kid will do to gain social standing in a group or to prove themselves to prospective friends.

There is nothing inherently wrong about any of this. I don’t even intend personal criticism. I just find it an odd attribute of human behavior.

Most things people have pride of have little to do with choices they’ve made. People are born smart or beautiful. People are born into good families or good communities. People are born lucky with the right circumstances and opportunities. People simply do whatever it is in them to do.

There is nothing particularly amazing about any of this, yet all of civilization would probably collapse without pride for it seems at the center of what motivates people. Shame is the opposite and necessary corollary of pride. People avoid shame like the plague for it is social death and sometimes leads to physical death via suicide (or else, in honor societies, via homicide). Pride and shame make the world go round.

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