During the years I’ve been in recovery, I’ve learned alternative definitions to many common words. Take “pride” for example. In most cases, it’s deemed good to be proud of one’s self. In recovery and religious terms, though, pride is seen as one of the biggest sins or “character defects.”
We talk a lot about character defects in AA. Steps Six and Seven deal with defects, and we talk of them as those things about ourselves that pull us back into selfish and ego-driven states. Pride is one of the biggest defects, and one in which I often display.
As I’ve grown in recovery, I’ve noticed how our AA and religious terms clash with more secularized versions of these terms. A quick Google search revealed some of the more secular definitions of “pride” and “proud.” These definitions usually talk about taking pleasure and satisfaction in one’s self or one’s achievements. Merriam-Webster defines proud in one aspect as having proper regard for one’s self.
But what happens when pride goes too far? In the religious sense, pride often means hubris, or preferring self-will to God’s will, according to a definition on Quora. Pride is seen as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. As C.S. Lewis says, pride is the sin that justifies all other sins.
Over the years, I’ve tried to find a balance between the religious and the secular. To be too prideful is to be arrogant. To have no pride in one’s self is not desirable, either. What I notice in myself is that when my pride becomes too much, I border on arrogance.
I’ve noticed this lately while I’ve been thinking about my work life. For the past year or so, I’ve considered filing for disability for mental health. My pride made me disgusted at this idea. I thought it made me weak, that I was not good enough, not strong enough. Instead of looking at disability as simply an option to be explored, the mere thought of it made me feel like I was waving a white flag.
It’s this type or arrogance and pride that I need to watch out for. It’s okay to be proud of my accomplishments, to take pride in other things about myself. But to exude so much pride that I refuse to ask for help? Well, that will always get me into trouble.
In my experience, I’ve also learned that some of my biggest negative self-talk comes from this sense of pride. In a strange and convoluted way, I can hold myself in such high regard that when I fall short of some impossible standard, I become hopelessly depressed.
I’m not as prideful as I used to be, but I’ve come to accept that this is a character defect that I’ll struggle with for a long time. It’s something that must be dealt with a day at a time. It’s also something that I struggle to find balance with – the balance between a healthy pride and deceit.
In recovery, we talk about humility as being the antidote to pride. Humility is another word with varying definitions, and it’s a word with strong religious connotations. When I first heard the word humility, I often thought of the saints – pious men who thought lowly of themselves, who were meek and always thought of others before themselves.
But I’ve learned humility doesn’t necessarily have to mean piety. I’ve heard in the rooms over the years a definition I like better: knowing myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and being willing to admit when I’m wrong. It means having a more balanced view of myself – not thinking too highly or too lowly of myself.
Much like pride, humility is something I must practice and strive for on a daily basis, and it’s something I often forget about. It doesn’t mean I bow down to people or become a doormat. It more so means I try not to be the bull in the china shop, running my life on self-will and arrogance.