Pride Goes Before the Fall – So Stay Proud!
I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “Pride goes before the fall” sometime in your life. You may recognize it as coming from the Bible – Proverbs 16:18, to be exact. In the original context, it is a traditional two-part warning: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” But modern English usage has shortened it to “Pride goes before the fall.”It’s generally used in the context of warning people that overconfidence and hubris often precede defeat, humiliation, or setback… usually because the excess pride led to complacency or mistakes. A stuck-up person can be blind to his or her weaknesses and fail to acknowledge his vulnerabilities. Warning people to avoid that pitfall is good advice.
There is, however, another way to interpret “Pride goes before the fall,” but it requires that we split the concept “pride” into two component parts.
One part is hubris and haughtiness. That arrogant, overconfident element is a vice and is what the original proverb is warning against. It is about not merely elevating your perception of yourself, but diminishing others as well. It is an unloving and unwise characteristic and certainly as deadly a sin as we’ve been taught.
But I believe, as have many before me, that underneath the vice, there is a virtuous element of pride, specifically, the state of being pleased or gratified with the result of good performance, whether your own or someone else’s. Even Christians are taught that we should desire to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That compliment is clearly intended to engender a combination of gratitude and pleasure at a job “well done.”
The negative aspects of pride are, as always, a perversion of a virtue; that is, being proud to an extreme that goes beyond what is merited. Warnings against haughtiness are warranted. But it is both unreasonable and unwise to abandon the feeling of pride in true work and true value.
If your work merits approval, then there is nothing wrong with being pleased that you’ve done a task well, that you’ve delivered the value expected of you, or that you’ve performed at a high level. In fact, I think that such pride in one’s work and one’s workmanship is a necessary component of a successful, prosperous society and a successful, prosperous brand.
And that’s where the second interpretation comes in. When that virtuous pride is gone, your society will fall.
When you stop taking pride in your work, your achievements will slow and stop.
When you stop taking pride in your family, your relationships will weaken.
When you stop taking pride in your community, your society will crumble.
When you stop expecting others to demonstrate pride in what they do, overall quality of output will decline.
When pride goes, a fall is sure to follow.
It is smart to avoid hubris and arrogance. It is wise to avoid being unrealistic about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It takes humility to accept that you still need to improve.
But in the same way you look at your shortcomings with an honest eye, you must also look at your achievements on their real merits, and take pride in doing a job well.
You have a right to be proud of your brand and the things that you do to strengthen it. Enjoy your success – not in a haughty way, but in the context of building on your momentum to achieve more.