Christopher Lucero | Pride, Virtue and Vice

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

There is a quote from an eastern philosopher dated around 500 years before Christ was born. The quote begins with “watch your thoughts, they become words …” and leads through actions, habits and character to conclude at destiny.

Philosophy is the collection of lingering questions about living and decisions we all must make during our temporary condition of mortal existence. Philosophy itself never leads to conclusive answers. It only serves to provoke thought.

Psychology is the study of the observed behavioral manifestations of decisions rendered by the thoughts that humans possess and how those thoughts coalesce into the cultural, rational, logical, or emotive beings we are. Psychology is the study of behavior, method of examining the process of social evolution described by the eastern philosopher long ago. 

Pride is a curious behavior. Pride is a “vice,” one of the seven deadly sins. I contend that it can manifest as both virtue and vice, as a humble pride that is (or once was) an American characteristic.

But, woe, if others manifest pride. Allergic, apoplectic, or apoptotic responses to the pride manifested by others is a “failure to communicate,” as expressed by the captain in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) and used in the beginning of the Guns N’ Roses song “Civil War.” The backlash of apoplexy is evidence of imbalanced pride transactions between individuals or groups. Imbalanced pride interactions, where one individual or a group has strong affinity/dissonance to another, are evidence that pride has migrated from a constructive trait to a destructive one, fulfilling its predicted role as one-seventh of the Christian vices.

Is there a healthy exercise of pride, a virtuous pride? Probably. It likely requires a meaningful self-awareness and self-control that exercises the philosophy and the psychology of constructive pride by maintaining a path that, at a minimum, chooses to lever virtue over vice. 

Constructive pride characteristics like care, empathy, kindness and patience are found on the virtuous/constructive path. Destructive pride characteristics like judgement, criticism, bigotry and subtle/overt hate are found on the vicious/destructive path.

Destructive pride characteristics get especially corrosive when combined with any or all of the other six vices: anger, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, or sloth.

The overall challenge is to temper all potentially destructive vices by a greater commitment to constructive virtues as contributors to destiny.

It is unfortunate that we experience, seemingly ever more often, public “trolling,” utilizing vicious pride to stimulate vicious response in those who are in opposition. As a behavior, it seems pervasive in our modern world. Governors thrust and parry, deputy district attorneys and sheriffs and supervisors wrangle, people put divisive bumper stickers or attach huge flags to their vehicles, local historians pen vicious rants masquerading as comedy — and community suffers. Manifesting vice to stimulate vicious response is a base uncivil behavior that corrodes social fabric more than the oft-cited erosion of the “family unit,” or of “Christian values,” or of “liberal values” or … 

Will there come a moment when we transcend this weakness? That depends. No journey is ever completed unless first steps are taken toward the destination.

Though pride is listed among the “deadly sins,” it is human. We must deal with it and master it: make it useful and constructive to our existence. An interesting blog post on this topic is located here:

I am painfully aware of a lifetime of infractions and transgressions, so I hope for forgiveness (to grant it and to receive it), and for capacity and commitment to change.

We evolve from thoughts, through words, to actions and habits, eventually to character, and finally to destiny. Without self-awareness and an intention for constructive pride, individuals could find themselves bearing an unsavory character and suffer a vicious destiny. We can only hope that our pride is tempered with the humility necessary to critically examine its own character.

Christopher Lucero


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