On Pride and Shame

There is a subtle distinction between confidence and pride.  Confidence is the willful assertion of your chutzpuh into a situation.  Pride is the belief that you were entitled to prevail over the same situation.  One is an act of consciousness, the other is an act of the self-inflating ego.

And we all know that the ego has got to go.

Parents are often proud of their kids, or friends can be proud of each other’s accomplishments.  I would argue that telling someone “how proud you are of them” is a baseless claim, and has consequences that might encourage negative self-centered behavior rather than uplifting the intrinsic sense of dignity and value that we all possess.

School pride and national pride are all products of an ideological divide.  Pride also becomes very problematic and divisive when applied to “ethnic” or “cultural” groups.  It is too often for the sake of pride that these divergent groups attack one another.  It bears repeating:  Violence is not the answer.  The answer to what?  A meaningful life.  And, of course, world peace will never exist in a world with violence.

Instead of pride we need helpful affirmations, and honest rebukes from the members of our communities.  If we can all hold each other accountable to some mutually agreed upon standard, then pride can be something that is culturally discouraged.  If we incentivized ourselves to shift away from notions of pride, then we can probably breed it out of our next generations.

If you need to have any sense of pride – surely you can be proud of your simple humanness.  You can also be proud of the degree to which you are able to consciously connect with nature on a daily basis.

Shame is the flip side of pride.  My personal sense of shame has been amplified the last few days since I broke my elbow.  I felt ashamed about a number of things.  My weakness:  If only I had been stronger I would have been able to catch myself mid-fall.  My weight:  If only I wasn’t as heavy as I am – once again I could have caught myself.  My stupidity for climbing on the tube in the first place.  What business did I have up there?  None, but the business of fun.  And its always fun until someone gets hurt…

Shame is also the product of our conscience.  Shame provides a feeling that most people don’t like.  So it would follow that people would act in a manner that would make them avoid such feelings.  Of course, there are those among us who act so shamelessly that it makes me wonder if their conscience is broken.

As a musician and a performer I know that it is sometimes necessary to put shameful feelings aside for the sake of art.  I can’t help but wonder if many of our uber-suave and savvy businessmen see the creation of money as their art.  If so, this is such a magnificent perversion of art that it demands to be met with resistance.  Which I will continue to do until I no longer have the energy for it.

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