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Five Pillars of Personal Pride


Anyone, in whatever circumstances, can be proud of himself or herself and have a positive identity. Some approach this through self-affirmations. (Say: “I am someone. I am a beautiful person.”) This technique may work for some people, but it seems a better way is to develop self-pride through what one does.

Not everything one does leads to pride. There are at least five ways that one can develop personal pride through action. Undoubtedly others can be added to the list. But here is a beginning:

1. Show courage.

2. Show creativity.

3. Show kindness toward others.

4. Show persistence toward a successful end.

5. Show a positive attitude.

1. Show courage: Everyone is fearful at some time about something. But there is also a character trait that allows one to overcome this state of mind. Courage appears in the moment of difficulty when taking that next step to what one knows needs to be done is impeded by fear. Somehow a person summons the resolve to act, does so successfully, and has a feeling of satisfaction or pride. The more challenging the situation is, the more courage one displays in meeting it successfully. That is why courage is a particular virtue for people facing great challenges. Example: George Washington, facing probable defeat in the war, gambled everything on crossing the Delaware river in the winter to surprise and defeat the Hessian mercenaries. The revolutionary army lived to fight another day.

2. Show creativity: We tend to think of artists, musicians, writers, and the like, who create beautiful and inspiring expressions from an inner vision. But creativity can be exhibited in many ways. The creator needs to create something new, not merely follow a well-established pattern. His creation may be an adaption to a ongoing challenge or it may be a bold breakthrough, like Einstein’s theory of relativity, which comes unexpectedly from an inner reservoir of thought. Civilization profits immensely from creative persons and we ought to celebrate them. Example: Thomas Edison and his assistants systematically developed important inventions using electricity.

3. Show kindness toward others: We can feel good about ourselves by cultivating a generous spirit toward others. Kindness means showing empathy toward another and, perhaps, helping that person in a time of need. Some recipients of kindness, or some charitable organizations, will, of course, take advantage of other people’s generosity for their own selfish ends. It’s better, I think, to have a natural disposition to be kind and to act upon that impulse when appropriate. Related to kindness is the willingness to listen when another speaks and anticipate another's needs. Example: This past summer, a truck driver stopped on an interstate highway to help tow my friend’s suddenly disabled car to the shoulder on the other side where it would not block traffic. Then, another man, who is a personal friend, drove 160 miles to pick us up where the vehicle was left and another 160 miles to return home.

4. Show persistence toward a successful end: Persistence for its own sake may be unhelpful if one is headed in a wrong direction. If the goal is unreasonable, bullheaded perseverance in its quest may not be a virtue. However, one never knows for sure what is reasonable. The person who continues along a certain course against the odds, despite numerous setbacks, deserves much credit when he finally reaches the end. Example: Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Ronald Reagan was widely seen as a political “neanderthal” but he persevered in his quest, was elected President, and through sheer personal determination saw the defeat of communism in Russia and eastern Europe. To balance things out politically, I would also put Ted Kennedy in this category as someone who could never have matched his slain brothers’ brilliant careers but, in the end, did leave his mark through many years of effective work in the U.S. Senate.

5. Show a positive attitude. Negativity is a part of life and cannot be avoided completely. However, it's easy to fall into a carping frame of mind. Negative situations are meant to be corrected, not dwelt upon. Marriages are ruined when one or another partner compiles and endlessly recites lists of things that the other has done wrong. Rather than complain about it, try to be forgiving. Try to think what can be done in a bad situation. To focus on the positive has a way of becoming a reality. Example: Again, in a political context, one could cite Ronald Reagan ("it's morning in America") or Hubert Humphrey (the "happy warrior"). However, my favorite example would be Lou Gehrig. Fatally stricken with a disease that would come to bear his name, Gehrig made a farewell statement to his fans at Yankee stadium on July 4, 1939, in which he called himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" for the many blessings he had enjoyed in life as a professional baseball player.

Anyone can become an attractive, positive personality by acting in ways that exhibit the above character traits or others not listed here.