Pride versus humility

               One of the trademarks of a well-bred woman is rooted deeply in her soul, and is truly a display of her innermost character.  That is whether she be proud or humble.  The struggle between pride and humility is ongoing in humanity and the ways either trait can display itself are sometimes elusive.

               What is humility?  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, humility is “the quality or state of being humble”;  humble is defined as “not proud or haughty;  not arrogant or assertive;  reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.”  Therefore, a humble woman will not only not think too highly of herself but also will make it a priority to unselfishly meet the needs of others.

               Although the words “poor” and “humble” may accompany each other when one thinks about humility, one need not be poor in order to possess humility.  A few years ago after her marriage, a woman of the wealthy DuPont family lived below her means as a down-to-earth, hardworking, active person;  of course, she owned high-quality possessions yet neither put on airs nor lived excessively.  Perhaps the truest test of one’s character is wealth, for it will always be easier for a poor person to act humbly, even though she may merely be forced by her circumstances to do so.

               Women often find themselves in the position of either taking or receiving advice, and it is in these situations that humility is so desirable.  Kind words appropriately spoken with regard to the feelings, perspective, and situation of the recipient will win the day.  The humble woman does not force her point of view on others or judge them if they do not imitate her in every way;  besides, she does not need the surface approbation of others to feel confident about her own decisions.

               Some people act proud of their humility. However, true humility never takes on extreme forms, such as willful self-debasement or misrepresentation of one’s status, value, or worth.  Since all people have worth, to act otherwise in an attempt to appear humble is actually prideful.

               A humble woman thinks of others’ needs as well as her own in proper perspective;  on the contrary, a proud woman feels superiority from deep within her being.  At one extreme of prideful behavior, one may exhibit open arrogance, haughty eyes, disdainful noises, critical words, avoidance of those deemed lesser, boasting, unwarranted advice, and constant reminding of others that her way is the best way.  Some women are even able to display most of the above characteristics in a sweet, gentle, or well-meaning manner, though it is still prideful.  While conversing, many women vie for attention by sharing their opinions of everything they disapprove of or find fault with.  Often these conversations center around criticism, disapproval, comparisons, one-upping, and so on.  This is not the way a well-mannered woman conducts herself.

               The other extreme of pride sometimes appears as humility, though it is actually false humility.  Feigned modesty, such as undermining one’s own accomplishments, possessions, or behavior, is a revealing form of pride.  For example, when receiving a compliment, a woman may adamantly insist that it was “nothing” or protest some other way.  By doing this one may force the other person to compliment her again or to return the dismissal by insisting good things about the woman in some other way.  Seeking compliments this way and basking in the notice of others reveals both an insecure, self-centered woman and one who is proud enough to demand the praise of others.  Not only would her reaction lead others to believe that she must really think lowly of herself, even though she is relishing the attention and praise, but also it can insult others by suggesting that their good judgment they used in choosing to compliment her was wrong.  A woman should always accept compliments with a simply thank you, whether or not she feels she deserves them.

               Another way of self-deprecating that is not true humility would occur when someone asks a woman about something she has or does and she replies “Oh, it’s just such-and-such” or “That’s only my ____” or responds with some other dismissive response and perhaps laughter.  Such a response implies a false sense of humility while giving a bad overall impression of what is being discussed since the woman seems to feel so lowly about it, whether she actually does or is just attempting to appear humble.  So-called false humility possesses the ulterior motive of impressing others or not wanting to appear proud.  Pride takes many forms, yet answering a question both confidently and honestly isn’t pride.  When someone asks, “What is that?” one should reply with poise and sincerity, instead of saying, “Oh, that’s just something I picked up free from wherever.”

               Between the extremes of blatant arrogance and false humility are more subtle forms of pride.  A woman may interrupt others while speaking, may neglect to follow up with her friends on previous conversations or confidences, may often turn the conversation back to herself and her affairs, may worry out loud in order to hear her friends and family satisfy and soothe her.  Her pride is mainly displayed through a selfishness that our society seems to have grown very tolerable of.  This is, however, inappropriate for one who seeks true humility of spirit.  Another less visible form of pride is perfectionism, the insatiable desire to do everything exactly right all the time.  Since no one can reach sinless perfection, it is prideful to insist upon only doing things in a perfect way without allowing oneself room for mistakes, practicality, and growth.  In addition, perfectionists often fear failure to the point that they end up accomplishing much fewer things, though “perfectly” done, than the well-rounded woman who is both aware of her own shortcomings and able to work with them to pursue a full, productive life.

               Pride is rooted deeply within many human hearts, and some days it seems like a never-ending struggle to rise above it.  Indeed, the best antidote to pride is to possess humility that is expressed through loving and serving others while not elevating oneself above one’s proper place.


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