Pride and What I Think

I was talking with a coworker today about peoples’ problems. Not the “I really want ice cream, but the store is so far away” problems (which are incredibly real in their own right), but the “So-and-so has an alcohol problem that’s clearly destructive to his/her life but doesn’t seem to care to change it” problems. I mentioned I didn’t want to pity the person because that seemed degrading to me. I’d rather be empathetic and approach things from the person’s state of mind and perspective.

I’ve tried approaching most of my encounters this way for a while now. It really shakes you after a while. You don’t just see the problems, you start to feel them, or at least try to. It takes you to some crazy places emotionally and mentally. At least in my experience.

I started all this because there was a time, like, most of my life, when I absolutely could not stand when people pitied me. I actually hit a point where I just stopped talking to people about my problems. It did wonders for my well-being, if you can imagine. But ultimately the irritation I felt from the unfeeling “well have you tried *blah blah blah*”’s and looks of concern that went no further than the facial expression that faded with their attention spans when their phones went off was worse than my pent up anger or sadness or suffering. They hurt my pride by disregarding and disrespecting my feelings and issues.

Maybe you’ve been there. After some self-reflection and epiphanies and general acceptance that I’m not the center of the universe (though I lapse back into that mindset regularly), I decided to make an active attempt at understanding people. And you know what? I realized I did the EXACT SAME THING to other people.

Cue emotional spiral.

Why did I do it? It wasn’t on purpose. I never wanted to make people feel like that. But I did it all the time. I sat and thought about their problems and related them to me and what was going on in my life and it turned into pity almost every time. “Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that! Don’t worry, though. I went through something like that last year. *insert long story all about me*… and in the end I just had to buckle down and get over it. That’s all there is to it. Just buckle down and fix it and it’ll all be alright.”

How. Selfish. Can. I. Get.

Not only did I just totally shift the focus to me, I also robbed the person of their right to feel a certain way by telling them how to feel and how to live his/her life. What. An. Ass.

Here’s what I think (and I can do that now because this blog is for me to work out my feelings): on some level, it comes down to pride. Our own pride and the pride of others.

I’m currently on a personal mission to drop my own pride as often as possible. It opens me up to new ideas and helps me understand new perspectives more easily in a real way. Not just in my “oh no, how awful!” *checks phone to see how many people liked my tweet* way.

Deciding daily that I could very seriously be wrong and someone else could be right is flooring in the best way. Try it. Makes you really look at what you think and how you decide things.

Here’s where the pity comes in. Just because I want to try to remove my own pride when I can, the pride of others is a different story. I have a theory about pride that isn’t our own.

Stripping away pride is degrading; Building pride blindly is dangerous; Respecting pride is preserving humanity.

I think when you pair the respect of others’ pride with the dismantling of your own, you sort of wave a white flag. You say, “Hey, you do you. But if you want to have a conversation, know that I’ll try my best to see things from your position because yours is as important, if not more, than mine and I value that.” I think it says a lot more than that, too, but I don’t feel like typing it all out.

When I take on that mindset *effectively*, my actions change, my intentions shift, and respect becomes present. That’s where empathy enters. That’s where conversations become conversations instead of lectures or pissing contests.

PLEASE understand I am not under any disillusion that I’ve got it all figured out. This has all just been my experience. But what would happen if we all had discussions with the idea that we don’t actually have the right answer no matter how firmly we believe it? What if we put our pride away for a few minutes and just tried to be on the same page with others? Maybe it’s the non-confrontational-ist in me, but I think it’s necessary these days. In a world full of yelling back and forth to no avail, how do we actually change the minds of others?

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