Shame & Pride – Two Sides of the Same Coin

There’s another comment I’ve heard as I’ve been talking about shame with others – pride is the opposite of shame. And along with that comment comes the argument that we should use shame to deal with pride in people.

In my opinion, pride is born of shame. It is shame, the feeling of not being good enough, that drives many people to pride and arrogance. According to Dictionary.com, pride is “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” People who are proud feel the need to prove that they are better than others. They consider themselves superior to others and treat people (or certain types of people) as inferior.

To me, this reeks of shame. Why do they have to be better than everyone else? Because they don’t accept themselves. They have something to prove, whether it is to others, to the people closest to them, or to themselves. Deep down inside, they don’t feel good enough, so they need to bolster themselves to a place where they can feel a sense of worthiness but this is at the expense of others. If they truly believed they are “enough” there would be no need to try to grab that worth from other people. They would find that worth within themselves.

Unfortunately, in my experience, the people who are most proud are the ones who would say they don’t experience shame at all. I believe it is incredibly difficult for them to admit their shame because that very act begins to dismantle what they have spent so much energy propping up – they are better than others. But if they admit to feeling unworthy that would mean they aren’t actually “better”. And their whole worldview could come crashing down. There’s too much at stake to go to that place so they stoically proclaim they have no shame and any attempts to uncover that Truth are often met with a harsh response.

I wish I knew how to help these people. Dumping shame on a prideful person certainly won’t help. Chances are they will dig in their heels and feel completely justified in their arrogant behaviour due to the attempt to “shame” them. Because “they don’t experience shame”. The shame tactics will only serve to reinforce their pride.

I believe that in order to be set free from the chains of pride, a person needs to face their own internal sense of unworthiness. But how do they come to that place? My guess is coming to an understanding of grace and being able to actually receive it would certainly help in this process. But I think there are a lot of people out there who “think” they understand what grace is and yet haven’t really been able to embrace it. Because embracing it acknowledges our need for grace and thus, our own brokenness. I’m sure doses of love, gentleness, and empathy can help to break down the armour of the proud person. But I don’t have any easy answers for this one.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about shame triggers and how they are different for men and women.

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