"The impulse towards shame is the sign of community health, of an undefeated desire for honor and self-respect. It's absence is the opposite of these things. A community that is in economic free fall, where work is non-existent and family life has disintegrated, is likely to be a place where shame and honor have lost their power, and men (especially men) are capable of almost any sort of self-destruction."
- Wilfred McClay, Why Communities Decline
In honor of some celebrating "pride" month, I thought I would share a thought-provoking article with you below. But first a little introduction.
The opposite of pride is humility. Shame is also closely related. All three of these things could be bad or good, depending on how you look at them. There's a place for pride if it's not pride of the ego. There's a place for humility and even for shame. If you did something you shouldn't do, you should feel shame. Shame is an intense negative emotion caused by guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. There's a place for shame because we have all done things we shouldn't have.
If you're proud of accomplishing something, or of your team doing well, or of your hometown, I don't see much harm in that. If you're too proud to ask for directions, too proud to apologize or admit you're wrong, or too proud to admit you made a mistake, that's not good. It's also good to be humble. If you want to learn anything, you have to be humble at first, because you aren't going to know what you're doing at first.
You can't show up at class the first day and start telling the teachers what to do. It doesn't work that way in martial arts, and it doesn't work that way in life. I don't care how "proud" you are, you still don't know what you're doing.
Should we do a half-ass job and be proud of it?
Should we be disrespectful towards our teachers, parents, and community leaders and be proud of it?
Should we disfigure our bodies and be proud of that?
Should we be proud, but lazy and blame everyone else for our problems?
Should we take pride in ourselves if there is nothing about us to be proud of?
Or should we take a look in the mirror and try to get up every day and be better and wiser?
I think I will choose the latter. Isn't it ironic that a culture which is characterized primarily by its narcissism celebrates pride with parades, festivals, and corporate advertising? We are to be "proud" of who we are, no matter what, even if we are not doing anything or becoming anything worthy of pride. Meanwhile, there are millions of quiet heroes out there, humbly doing their jobs and getting better at their vocations and endeavors who get no parades in their honor. I raise a glass to you all, wherever you are.
There's a place for pride, but pride can also be the root of all evil. For communities to be healthy, there needs to be a place for shame, honor, humility, and communal pride, normally known as patriotism. Taking pride in your community and your work is one thing, but taking pride in the wrong things is narcissistic at best, and self-destructive at worst.
Most things I've done that meant anything to me took a lot of humility, and the swallowing of pride.
This article was one of the most poignant I've read in some time about our culture and why communities like the ones we see around us decline. "Why Communities Decline" by Wilfred McClay in the Modern Age Journal, Spring 2019.
Enjoy and let me know what you think!