Pride goes before both fall and rise
The pride in play
The World Cup in Football is a celebration of individual and national pride. It can be considered as a creative replacement of mutually annihilating war of nations in the past. The wars often emerged out of uncontrolled ascend in the individual/ethnic/linguistic/religious/national pride. What people “fought out” in the past are rather “played out” today! Football proves itself to be a game that is ideally suited to transform the destructive pride into something beautiful to watch! Billions watch it these days. They swarm in the streets even during the odd mid-night hours! Each of the 32 participating nations in the Football World Cup puts up its best stars and team in the tournament. All cherish the ambition to be enthroned as the World Champion in Football! The superstars like Christiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Karim Benzema (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Mueller (Germany), Neymar (Brazil), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), regularly capture thundering headlines in the world press.
However, the truth of the matter is displayed right on the playground. The national pride of the world champions (e.g. Spain or Italy) or individual pride of the superstars (e.g. Christiano Ronaldo, Mario Balotelli) is put to radical test on the grasses of Brazil! Every superstar has to sweat to prove his individual mettle and team-ability! Every super team has to defend their pride against field realities!
“Pride goes before a fall” is a well-known saying. That is easier for us to understand. It takes place in front of our eyes! Is the opposite statement also true? Is it true to say, “pride goes before a rise”? We wish to investigate into the intrinsic relation between bolstering pride and creative performance.
“The Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle portrays pride (Greek: megalopsuchia) as the “crown of all virtues”. After a detailed discussion on different virtues, Aristotle concludes: “Pride, then, seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues; for it makes them more powerful, and it is not found without them”. (Nicomachean Ethics 4.3). Aristotelian pride is associated with a deeper sense of “self-respect” originating from the true “knowledge of self”. Such self-respect is the fountainhead of all virtues, suggests Aristotle.
Aristotle continues: “it is in fact very hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible without nobility and goodness of character”. Aristotelian pride emerges out of nobility and strength of character. It is not vanity, which is based on an exaggerated estimate of one’s strengths and blindness towards own weaknesses. It requires exact estimate of one’s strength and weakness. Greatness of soul or magnanimity of spirit is called upon.
Aristotelian pride helps you to identify your nobility. At the same time, it prepares to acknowledge and appreciate the greatness of the other. “I am o.k. so are you”, is the tone of Aristotelian pride! A quick look into history will reveal that Aristotelian pride was part and parcel of noble souls of the past. They were aware of their inner worth, power of their thoughts and nobility of their ways. They never compromised their pride, even in the face of great persecutions. Jesus silently reinstated his status as “Son of God” even in the face of accusation of blasphemy, which could deal him death penalty as per the Law of the Jews. Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed the power of Ahimsa, even on the eve of his brutal murder. No gun-shot could steal Martin Luther King of his powerful dreams on an egalitarian world. So were the great prophets, martyrs and saints. Their convictions were indelible and their self-confidence was indestructible. They were just proud - in Aristotelian sense!
Aristotelian pride goes always before your awakening and rise! It gathers your inner power, strength of character and moral courage. It equips you to overcome an apparent deadlock in life. It revamps you after a breakage; re-collects you after a shatter and rebuilds you after a catastrophe. It makes you like the mythical phoenix bird, which rises again and again from its own ashes. It scripts your greatness!
Italy’s greatest poet, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) explores another face of pride, which is vanity (Latin: superbia; Greek: hubris) in his 14th century poem, “Divine Comedy”. He considers pride as the first of the seven grave sins, the first terrace of purgatory, which has to be overcome, in order to ascend to paradise. As the description goes Dante, accompanied by the great Roman poet Virgil, encounters the souls of the proud in purgatory. To their surprise they find all of them bent over by the weight of huge stones on their backs, due to the baggage of their pride! Some of them were proud of their descent; some others of their achievements and yet others of their dominance over others. This baggage made it difficult for them to ascend to the heights of the terrace!
The pride described by Dante is the love of the self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor. It originated from an exaggerated sense of false self. It has little to do with reality; it deals with your appearances, which could cloud your reality. Such inauthentic pride is the fountainhead of all vices, suggests Dante.
Dantean pride defined downfall of famous heroes of Greek tragedies. Pride caused the fall of Lucifer from heavenly thrones to become Satan in hell. Despite being a creature of God, Lucifer dared to compete with God, to seal his fate! Similar fate loomed over the mythical human being, Adam, as he subdued himself to the temptation of Satan to eat from the “forbidden fruits” of the “tree of life”. The apparent temptation of Adam was to become God-like, which he already was. Forgetfulness of the real self and vain attempts to become what you already are defines the core of the Dantean pride. Another powerful allegory on pride presented by Dante in “Divine Comedy” is the building of the Tower of Babel. The tower was built by humans with the hidden purpose of scaling heaven, the abode of God, their creator. Such false pride of humans was severely punished in that they could not anymore communicate with each other, even as they conversed in the same language! False pride of individuals is portrayed as the root-cause of failure in human communication. How true!
Pride vs. Gratitude
We need to ask some fundamental questions here: What are the things, one could truly be proud of? What are the things, one could just be grateful of? How to distinguish between instances to be proud of and grateful of?
Over one’s descent or origin there is in fact nothing to be proud of. That you were born as a slave-or-master, upper-or-lower caste, prince-or-subject, rich-or-poor, intelligent-or-stupid were not your decision or your choice. They were purely accidental! How could you then be proud of something, which is not your own asset?
The country of your origin is also not a matter to be proud of. National pride is out of place. Your nationality is something you are born into or ascribed to you. It is often not your achievement.
So is color of your skin, your race, your ethnicity, your language, your religion! They are part of your being conferred on you by chance. Being proud of them is Dantean. In fact, you are required to be just grateful for all these given-ness!
So are most of the achievements in your life. Granting that you have a significant role in realizing them, if you are sincere, you will confess that it involves coincidence of many extraneous parameters, upon which you exercise no control at all. Your achievements, therefore, shall make you humble and grateful, not proud!
Pride and creative living
Studies have shown that Aristotelian pride or authentic pride plays a significant role in fueling creativity. Authentic pride generates intrinsic motivation and is instrumental to creativity. Dantean or hubristic pride is rather coupled to extrinsic motivation. It does not engender creativity on its own. However, if you are a person driven by external rewards, then hubristic pride also may trigger your creativity.
Interestingly humility, which is the apparent opposite pole to pride, is also found to boost your creativity. A humble attitude ensures that you not only possess the sense of grandness of your accomplishments but also declares your preparedness to make things better. In other words, both authentic pride and sincere humility originating from true knowledge of self keep your creative spirit sustainable.
A combination of genuine pride and sincere humility further strengthen your collegial enterprises. It subdues your divisive tendencies, when you work in a team. This helps opening up of a world of possibilities and paves way for creativity.
In short, authentic pride does not go before a fall; rather engendering a creative spirit, it goes before a rise!