You’re so vain! The faults of pride and the practice of humility


Deluded Pride

Deluded pride is an inflated view of ourselves that believes we are superior to other people. Each of us is no more important than anyone else, and believing we are is a source of suffering. Pride causes us to disrespect others; after all, why would we pay respect to inferiors, right? Further, pride is a barrier to increasing our knowledge and good qualities. It’s difficult for a proud person to learn anything new because they already feel that they know better.

There are seven types of deluded pride:
1 Pride over inferiors
2 Pride over equals
3 Pride over superiors
4 Pride in identity
5 Pretentious pride
6 Emulating pride
7 Wrong pride

Pride over inferiors is feeling superior to someone who is in some respect inferior to ourself.

Pride over equals is feeling superior to someone equal to ourself.

Pride over superiors is feeling superior to someone higher than ourself. This is often called “pride over pride” as the superior person is often someone else who feels pride.

Pride in identity is an inflated sense of self-importance based simply on our identity, such as being proud of being American, proud of being white, proud of being a man, or proud of being a fan of a sports team.

Pretentious pride is believing that we have qualities that we do not actually possess.

Emulating pride is feeling equal or almost equal to someone who is vastly super­ior to us.

Wrong pride is pride in inappropriate actions.

When I first studied the seven kinds of pride identified above, I quickly identified many instances were I exhibited all seven forms. I was very proud of my accomplishment.

All of these forms of pride should be identified and abandoned by practicing humility.

Practicing Humility

Most people would prefer high status and a good reputation and have little desire to be humble. We regard ourselves as precious and important, cherishing ourselves above all others. With this attitude, we exaggerate our own good qualities and develop an inflated view of ourselves.

We spend much time and effort contemplating our real or imagined good qualities, and we ignore our faults. Rather than admit mistakes or faults, we make excuses and justify to ourselves that we were right, and they were wrong, no matter the circumstances. When making excuses fails, we generally blame other people rather than taking responsibility for ourselves.

If we have a conflict with another person, we naturally conclude that they are wrong, and it’s entirely their fault. We argue with them that they must change. Further, they must humbly accept and acknowledge that we were right all along. It’s our exaggerated sense of self-importance that leads to a critical attitude toward others and makes it almost impossible to avoid conflict.

The fact that we fail to see our faults doesn’t prevent others from seeing them and pointing them out. And when they do, we naturally conclude they are being grossly unfair and they are ignoring our flawlessness nature. Rather than examine the facts and see if the criticism is accurate or justified, we become defensive and distract ourselves by retaliating against our accuser by finding faults with them.

The main reason we don’t regard other people as precious is that we devote our attention almost exclusively to noticing their faults and ignoring their good qualities. With great vigor, we often document, analyze, and meditate on listing the bad qualities and behaviors of others because even if we can’t elevate ourselves, we can always devalue others.

By focusing on people’s bad traits and limitations, we generate anger and resentment rather than love and compassion. We develop the desire to harm or discredit them and take revenge for perceived slights. In this way, even small disagreements can become intense conflicts that simmer for months.

Nothing good ever comes from dwelling on our own good qualities and others’ faults. Our practice should be to do the opposite. We should commit ourselves to the practice of humility: recognizing, reducing, and abandoning our faults while focusing exclusively on other’s good qualities.

You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain,
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

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I am Anattā. Not my real name, of course, but that’s the point. I selected the moniker Anattā because in Buddhism, my primary spiritual practice, the term anattā refers to the doctrine of “non-self”. In more practical terms, I chose the name Anattā because by writing anonymously, it’s far easier to be completely candid and honest. Further, there is no danger of my writing becoming tainted by any desire for self-aggrandizement. I write primarily to improve my own understanding of these topics, but my deepest desire for writing on this site is to help others.