Pride and Humility

I get the sense that there is much confusion about the concept of pride. We are taught that we should have pride in ourselves, our work, our family, our state, our nation, our school, our team, etc, etc, etc. At first glance pride seems like something that is good for us and will lead us to a better life. Not taking pride in something denotes a lack of attention or caring.

On the other hand, the ancients believed that pride was the ultimate of the Seven Deadly Sins. They called it the sin from which all others arise. How can that be? Who is right and who is wrong on this subject and why should we care about the distinction?

According to the ancient’s definition, pride was thought to be as thought of as pure selfishness. That meant that we put our own desires, urges, wants, and whims before anyone else. When this happens we are seeing ourselves as the center of the universe.

With pride we irrationally believe that we are essentially and necessarily better, superior, or more important than others. When engrossed in ourself we will fail to acknowledge the accomplishments of others. If you have read my book Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values, you will quickly recognize all this as describing how our egos work.

This leaves us in a bit of a quandary because our pride is so much of our self-identity. We identify with our families, our work, our nation, our team, etc.. We want and need what we consider success in all these aspects of life. We are in competition with others so that we can be the best, and that is when we are entering the realm of pride.

Being in competition with other is a perfect environment for pride to show its ugly face. Our world is based upon competition, isn’t it? Maybe our world has gotten off on the wrong path. But if we aren’t competing to get ahead, then what is there to do?

This is where another duality of our existence comes into play. What is the opposite of competition? Of course, it’s cooperation. When we can humble ourselves, then we can cooperate and help others. From this we can make ourselves much more valuable, wanted, needed and productive in this world. Humility is the key here, which means that you don’t think of yourself as being better than those around you.

A friend and mentor of mine, David Novak, demonstrated this very adroitly in his stellar career that culminated with him rising to the top of the business world. As CEO for YUM Brands, the world’s largest fast food restaurant franchise, he developed a culture of recognition for his employees. He believed that leaders needed to become coaches to help others to succeed and become all they could become.

As a result, he said he moved ahead because people supported him up and down the organization. He said, “My ability to value others and have them know it came from the heart definitely propelled me forward. There's no way you can make things happen in business or in your career by yourself. You have to take people with you”.

I asked him what quantifiable results came from his leadership approach. He said, “Our turnover at the restaurant level was cut in half with our recognition culture and our company is routinely noted by others for our ability to recruit and retain top talent. Our ability to retain top talent was best in class. We went from 20000 restaurants to over 40,000 in my tenure. We built a truly global company with recognition being the top value around the world. YUM stock went up over six times. I was CEO of the year for 2012.”

The ex CEO for YUM Brands is now pursuing what he calls a new "vocation" — teaching business leaders and everyday people the power of recognizing the people in their lives. His latest book is titled, O Great One!: A Little Story about the Awesome Power of Recognition.

David Novak has shown us that helping people, not using people for your personal gain gives the best results. He feels that being a leader means placing your employee’s needs ahead of your own personal needs. If that can take place in the business world then why can’t it take place in our personal lives? There is absolutely no reason why it can’t.

The switch from competition to cooperation is really a switch from being ego centered to higher self-centered. It all seems so counter-intuitive and may be an insurmountable concept for most to grasp.

It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

-St Augustine


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