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Handling Pride

Chapter 13: Handling Pride

Tools for Personal Growth

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What is pride?

Pride is the belief that you:

  • Have everything in your life under control because of your uniqueness, power, authority, and competence; you don't need anyone or anything to help you maintain things at an even keel.
  • Have a special relationship with God. He will never send you challenges, tragedies, or disasters that you can't handle on your own.
  • Are the center of the world, universe, or cosmos.
  • Have the answer for everything in your life and in the lives of others.
  • Are the best thing that has happened since crushed ice and that everyone you come in contact with should recognize your brilliance, intelligence, competence, spirituality, sense of humor, good looks, skills, and abilities.
  • Have excellent self-esteem, which is a mask behind which your low self-esteem is hidden.
  • Deserve to have everybody, the world and God, give you what you desire, in life. If you don't get it, then it is everybody else's fault for not giving it to you.
  • Are above all rules; you need not go by the rules of life, society, the work place, religion, marriage, or family life.
  • Do not have to study hard, apply yourself at work, grow in spirituality, work at your marriage, or work on personal growth on a daily basis because you are different from the rest of humanity; things will just come naturally, spontaneously, and deservedly to you.
  • Are all-powerful, all-knowing, faultless, immortal; you need no refining, retuning, or occasional checkups. With such pride you live a life of indifference, avoidance, and denial of the warning signs that what you believe yourself to be is not what you really are.
  • Have the answer, the way, and the truth while everyone else is dishonest, lacking in perfection, and needing growth. Pride makes you impatient, distrusting, and unaccepting of those who do not ascribe to your philosophy, spiritual beliefs, psychological principles, and sociological mandates.
  • Have no more to learn. You have reached your goal and there is no chance of a relapse, set back, or reactivation of the problem for which you originally went into treatment. This is a mask for people in recovery and undergoing treatment for dysfunctional family illness. It can be the result of over-exuberance, an emotional high, a naive belief, and not understanding that change is a lifelong process.

What characteristic behavior is exhibited by people with immoderate pride?

People with immoderate pride are often:

  • Cocky know it alls
  • Lacking in tolerance or patience for others' ideas, problems, or feelings
  • Unable to listen to others or to God's messages
  • Smug in their self-righteousness
  • Evangelistic in their new-found truths, often times prematurely; they are unprepared for their personal set-backs
  • Narrowly focused in life on self-aggrandizement
  • Security conscious. fearful of becoming vulnerable to any new messages about life that might threaten their personal beliefs
  • Lacking in insight into their own weaknesses (masked by pride) and therefore become easy prey for a major downfall when a severe crisis or disaster strikes their lives
  • Above being helped, systematically cutting off offers of help from family, friends, or professionals
  • Resentful of those who do not acknowledge their way as the way
  • Selective in the people with whom they are willing to associate, only associating with people who are equally enlightened in their way
  • Resentful of being challenged and get angry at others or at God when a challenge arises in life
  • Threatened by any new truths, researched answers, or spiritual happenings that do not fit into their structured way of looking at and living life
  • In denial about having problems; in having too much pride they are skillful in turning helpful suggestions around, attacking the person who made the suggestion
  • Deaf to the world in general. They become so caught up in their own pursuit of life that they tend to withdraw from day to day living, which they find boring
  • Sarcastic, caustic, and biting in their comments toward people they believe to be beneath them or behind them in life
  • Looking down their noses at people who react negatively to their opinions or comments
  • Aristocratic in their view of life, treating most people as commoners
  • Ready with a quip, answer, or comment for everything and are happy to give unsolicited advice
  • Hardheaded, stubborn, and not easily swayed from the position they have taken on a question

How do others treat or react to people with immoderate pride?

In reaction to people with immoderate pride, others often:

  • Ignore them and what they have to say.
  • Do not invite them to become part of the team at work, school, or in the community because they are not team players.
  • Find them humorous, silly, and naive. They see them as being fun to watch and observe, but not to follow.
  • Find them repulsive, sickening, distasteful, and avoid them.
  • Become offended, turned off, and rebuked by their messages.
  • Create committees, public action groups, and consumer unions to attack those overly prideful individuals who prey on society.
  • Defend themselves against their onslaught.
  • Pray for them so that they will be able to gain some humility and temperance in their lives.
  • Are skeptical, shy, and reserved in their presence.
  • Try to convert, cajole, or bully them into a more temperate way of acting, believing, and living.


How do you know when pride is stunting your personal growth?

You know that pride is blocking your personal growth when you:

  • Think that you have nothing left to work on.
  • Get angry at the realization of personal growth as a lifelong process.
  • Get angry at God for sending you a calamity or disaster to deal with.
  • Become restless and impatient with others who are involved in their own quest for truth and personal growth.
  • Can rationalize why you no longer need help, support, or understanding from others in your life.
  • Believe you have all the answers to your life's quest.
  • Believe you have no need for a spiritual life or spiritual development.
  • Believe that you are invincible. You are ready to deal with whatever comes your way. You are sure that whatever it is, it won't be overwhelming.
  • Believe that you have no need to take preventive measures to protect your physical and mental health.
  • Believe that all this renewal, wellness, prevention, support group, treatment business is for the birds, not for you.
  • Believe that you don't need anyone in your life to mess it up or make it less than perfect.
  • Become obsessed with protecting yourself, your goods, and your family from the onslaught of the real world.
  • Take yourself, your spouse, your family, and isolate them from the temporal or secular world.
  • Become picky in choosing people with whom you will associate.
  • Begin to take yourself too seriously.
  • Find yourself turning against anyone who questions your beliefs or way of life.
  • Become stuck in a stereotypic way of thinking and problem solving.
  • Become resentful toward those who ignore you.
  • Believe that God has a new partner: you.
  • Act like you are the only one who has ever accomplished, succeeded, or achieved your level of success.


What do persons with immoderate pride believe?

I'm strong and I can handle anything that comes my way.

  • After overcoming this major hurdle in my life, there is nothing that could throw me like that again. I'm prepared.
  • I need no help in dealing with my problems, anyway, no one could help me.
  • I feel like a million bucks. There is nothing you can say or do to change that.
  • God and I have a special relationship, and He will never let me down.
  • If you live a clean life, treat people fairly, and are generous to others you deserve to be blessed in this life with bountiful fruits for your labors. That is the way it should be.
  • How could God treat me this way? I've done everything He has directed me to do.
  • It is unfair to expect me to handle this loss at this time in my life.
  • There can't be a God who is merciful and just if He would allow this to happen to me.
  • What I have recently experienced convinces me that all people are inherently evil.
  • Don't let your guard down or they will steal you blind.
  • I can't understand why no one listens to me or follows my role modeling!
  • I tell them how to live their lives for success and they turn around and do just what they want to do.
  • No priest, psychologist, or doctor is going to tell me how to live my life.
  • I have no problems. You are the one with the problems.
  • Everyone around here is stupid, incompetent, and ineffectual.
  • I can't stand having to repeat myself for people; why can't they get it the first time.
  • Life owes me a living. The world owes me a living. You owe me a living.
  • Thank God I'm perfect.
  • There is only one path to salvation, success, and wisdom: it is my chosen path.


What behavior traits could bring immoderate pride under control?

In order to bring immoderate pride under control, people could:

  • Develop a sense of humility and modesty about their abilities, skills, and strengths.
  • Develop a more realistic picture of their place in the cosmos, universe, world, society, work place, and home.
  • Do an honest self-appraisal of their successes, achievements, and accomplishments, recognizing the part that God and others have played in their lives.
  • Accept that life is a continuous journey on a path with a variety of twists and turns. There is never a time when they can sit back, confident that they have already survived the major hurdles and obstacles.
  • Recognize and accept the fact that God is never done with them. Just when they think they have made it, God may have a new challenge or crisis waiting for them.
  • Accept their own humanity, which involves making mistakes, weakness of resolve, weakness of the flesh, fallibility, lack of strength, emotion, anger, disappointment, confusion, dismay, and other normal responses to the unknowns in life.
  • Remember from where they have come and recognize that their past is their best navigational map as they chart their course.
  • Become less selfish, self-centered, and egotistical; instead, become more humble, giving, and other oriented.
  • Shed their masks, which covers low self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, and a sense of insecurity.
  • Become open to the variety of options and paths available for personal growth and wellness.

What are the steps to tempering immoderate pride?


Step 1:  Before you can handle pride that has gone out of control or has become immoderate, you must first recognize if this is the case for you. Answer the following questions in your journal:

  • What accomplishments, achievements, or successes make you feel proud?
  • What is your attitude about these successes? Do you brag a lot about them? Do you let others know how hard you had it at one time in your life and what you did to turn it around? Do you get offended when others don't pay much attention or give enough recognition to these successes?
  • Who do you feel was responsible for your successes? What role did the others' in your life play in these successes? What role did God have in these successes? Do you feel you are solely responsible for these successes?
  • When you consider these successes, what makes them unique, different, or exceptional from those of others?
  • How did you feel when presented with a challenge in your life in the form of a death, a loss, a setback, a disaster (natural or man made), a relapse, or an unexpected crisis? What challenges have you faced in the last two years that shook you up? How did you handle these challenges? Who did you blame for these challenges? What was the result of your personal growth in dealing with these challenges?
  • What blocked your handling of these challenges? Why were you disappointed with these challenges? What role did pride play in your reaction to these challenges?
  • In answering the above questions, do you see a trend that fits the definition of pride as presented in the opening section of this chapter?
  • In answering the above questions, does your behavior fit that of a person with immoderate pride as presented in the second section of this chapter?
  • In what ways have people reacted or given you feedback about your immoderate pride?
  • In what ways has immoderate pride affected or stunted your personal growth?
  • What beliefs do you hold that reflect your immoderate pride? What replacement beliefs do you need to temper your pride?
  • What behavior do you need to develop in order to temper your immoderate pride?

Step 2:  Once you have determined that your pride in your accomplishments, achievements, and successes has gone out of control, that it is a mask for your low self-esteem, your lack of self-confidence and insecurity, then you are ready to take an inventory of yourself in your journal.

My Personal Inventory

In order to control my pride and keep it in line with reason, rationality, and humility I make the following personal inventory:

My full name is:
I was born on (month, date, year) in (city, state):
I attended or graduated from the following schools and got the following diplomas and degrees:
I have held the following jobs over the following time periods (list chronologically):
My current job and job responsibilities include:
I have received the following honors, and awards for my achievements, accomplishments, and successes:
  • (1) school:
  • (2) work:
  • (3) the community:
  • (4) church:
  • (5) my family of origin:
  • (6) my marriage:
  • (7) my current family:
  • (8) my profession:
I have the following skills, abilities, knowledge, strengths, and competencies:
I have the following interests, motivations, and ambitions today:
I want to pursue the following hobbies, interests, and activities:
How have I grown as a person:
  • (1) emotionally:
  • (2) intellectually:
  • (3) physically:
  • (4) spiritually:
I have the following people to thank for my level of success:
I have God to thank in the following ways for my level of success:
I have been able to survive the following disasters, crises, calamities, challenges, roadblocks, dependencies, illnesses, and obstacles:
I was able to recover from these negative impacts in my life because:
I would not be where I am today, handling these negative issues in my life, if it were not for the following people:
I am doing the following things to insure that I do not relapse if a new negative impact should enter my life:
I am working with and relating to the following people to ensure my lifelong support system, safety net, reinforcement, and assistance if a negative impact should occur:
I am doing the following things to strengthen my spiritual life and develop a healthy, realistic relationship with God:
I am working on the following personal growth and relationship issues:
I am working on or have completed the following Tools for Coping tools to rebuild my self-esteem:

Step 3:  Now that you have completed your personal inventory, you are ready to take a visualization journey to keep your immoderate pride under control. Before you attempt this visualization, call yourself into a relaxed state using a physical relaxation exercise. Now, close your eyes and begin the visualization:


A Revealing Visualization

You find yourself lying in bed dreaming of the beauties of the world. You have the feeling that all is well with the world and that you are the master of all that you see.


Into your dream a stranger's voice intrudes. “Why do you have so much pride? Who do you think you are? What right do you have to assume that you are in control of everything in your life?” You become offended by these questions and respond that you are happy with your life and the way it is.


The voice answers “But why have you left me out of the picture?”


You respond, “Who are you? Leave me alone. I am happy the way things are and there is nothing you can do to change my point of view.”


The voice then says, “Let me take you on a journey and show you what I can do for you.” You agree that that would be fine. If you can get something for yourself, why not?


Suddenly your body is being transported across space, and time. You see a collision in the cosmos and a series of celestial bodies forming. You see a glowing series of stars until you pass a single star around which nine planets rotate. The voice says “This is the universe I made for you.”


You are then transported to the third planet closest to the star and you see the air, sky, wind, water, land formations rotate and shift rapidly until they become a solidified form. The voice says, “This is the world I made for you.”


You then land on the earth. Before your eyes you find barren ground transformed with lush vegetation, animals of a variety of species, and seas filled with vegetation and fish. The voice says “These are the natural resources I made for you.”


You then drift inside your body and see your organs, blood vessels, tissues, nerves, bones, and flesh, all working marvelously in a syncopation and symphony of life. The voice says “This is the body I made for you.”

You then drift over a rapidly moving kaleidoscope of scenes from your past life in which you met and overcame obstacles, roadblocks, and challenges to your personal health, safety, and growth. The voice says “These are the events in your life I helped you overcome.


Then suddenly you are confronted with a thunderstorm and each rain drop is in the form of a scene of future obstacles, disasters, hardships, weaknesses, and challenges to threaten your personal security, health, and well being. The voice says: “I will be your umbrella to protect you from the rain. You must be willing, however, to do the work of opening the umbrella and holding it against the rainstorm.”


Instantly you open the umbrella and hold it steady over your head against the rain. As soon as you do this, a beautiful sun appears and a gorgeous rainbow fills the horizon. The voice says: “Let go of your pride and accept my assistance and I promise you a lifetime of sunshine and rainbows to help you through the storms I send. I will do this only if you are willing to work along with me and use the tools I have given you.”


You are now relaxed and at peace. You float back to your bed where you were dreaming. You are going to awake, refreshed and renewed, ready to face the challenges in your life. As you count backward from five to one, slowly open your eyes and return to your awakened state.


As you reflect on this visualization, consider the following questions. Answer them in your journal:
  • What does this visualization reveal about me and my pride?
  • Who is the voice? Why is the voice so powerful? Why was the voice so patient with me? Why wasn't the voice angry with me?
  • What does the umbrella represent in my life? How well have I used the umbrella in the past? How could I improve my use of the umbrella in the future?
  • What is the rainstorm? Why is the rainstorm so overwhelming?
  • How attainable are the sunshine and rainbows in my life?
  • What keeps the sunshine and rainbows shining on a daily basis?
  • How well do I use the tools I have to insure my ability to get through the storms in my life?


Step 4:  After you have completed assessing your pride, the personal inventory, and the visualization in Step 3, you are ready to let go of immoderate pride in your life. If, however, you are still hanging on to your pride, return to Step 1 and begin again.