The other day on my way to work I was flipping through radio stations. In so doing, a Christian radio broadcast caught my attention. The minister’s topic was about pride and how it can cause problems for a person. As he talked, the linguist in me began mulling over exactly what pride is as opposed to arrogance. I feel that there is a big difference between pride and arrogance; this difference is not explored nor is it understood as much as it should be. I continued flipping through the radio stations and cannot actually tell you how he finished up his sermon, but it got me to thinking.
Pride is the feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of a personal achievement or of an achievement of someone with whom you are closely associated.
For example, here is the main character for my novel set in the late nineteenth century:
Selma felt proud that she had had the courage to board the ship to Charleston. For two years she had struggled to save her money to pay for her passage to America. Her parents had told her that her dreams were foolish nonsense, that she should just marry Seamus and settle down. Looking out at sea, Selma re-read her cousin Elisabeth’s letter promising her a position at the dress shop. “I have actually done it. I am actually on my way.”
The character Selma feels pride about her accomplishment. She is pursuing her dream. She is not arrogant about it.
Arrogance is an attitude of overbearing superiority; egotism.
For example, here is another character in the story who exhibits arrogance.
Mildred Turnbull’s elbow knocked against the blue cup. Tea spilled onto the lacy white table cloth. “Hessie, come clean this mess up now.”
Turning to her dinner guests, she scowled. “Stupid girl. She’s just stupid. Poor as a mite when she came knocking on my door looking for a position. Well, her slowness is about to get her kicked to the street. It’s the kind of people she comes from, you know.”
In this example, Mildred Turnbull has a sense of superiority over Hessie. Hessie is a flawed object in Mildred’s mind. She has judged Hessie to be inferior to her because of social class. Mildred is the epitome of arrogance.
In developing characters for my novels and short stories, I have to carefully consider what personality traits I want to assign.
Depicting the difference between pride and arrogance does matter. Too many times people confuse the two.
As a child growing up, I often heard ministers talk about pride being a deadly sin. As a linguist, I really must disagree with the early translations of the word “pride.” A more concise rendering should be “arrogance.” It is a person’s arrogance that is demeaning to society. Arrogance leads people to disrespect another person’s humanity. Arrogance is ugly in that it robs others of a sense of worthiness. An arrogant person is a cruel person. Those on the receiving end of arrogance are unfairly judged and their self-worth diminished. What happens to the arrogant person later on when they have managed to alienate others? It cannot have a positive outcome socially, mentally, or spiritually for the arrogant person.
Feeling pride in yourself and feeling pride in another person’s accomplishments is a good thing. Pride is uplifting. Pride motivates you to want to do more, to want to reach for the stars, to share your talents and to live your best life possible. A proud person often shines and can motivate others to move forward with their hopes and dreams.
As I said, I am not sure how the radio minister ended his sermon, however it is my hope that other people will seriously consider the sharp difference between pride and arrogance.
I am proud of my accomplishments. It is my hope that my words can uplift others and encourage them to think deeply about words and how words matter.