Pride IS a Sin


Proud to be an American? Are you really? If so, how come?

Everybody these days is proud of being something. Proud to be from Texas. Proud to live in the greatest city on earth (fill in the name of city). Proud to be white. Proud to be a man, but proud to be a woman. Proud to be Irish, Black, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim  … any religion, ethnicity, or nationality will do as well as any other.

Life is a game of chance. Play well.

We are all so damned proud.

But I ask again: what makes you proud to be something that was an accident of birth? Are you proud to be alive? Human? Proud you aren’t dead of disease, starvation, natural disaster, or war?

I am not proud to be an American. I am glad to be an American, grateful to be free to live in this beautiful valley. I love the United States. I think it’s fundamentally a great nation which, if we stopped screwing around, could be even greater. But proud? What does pride have to do with it?

I’m proud of some of the things I’ve written, some of the pictures I’ve taken. I’m ashamed of things I’ve done, too. I haven’t always lived up to my own beliefs. Has anyone really? I’m proud of what I’ve earned, but I’m not proud of the gifts I was given at birth. I am deeply grateful that I was lucky enough to receive them. To be proud of them would be pure hubris. I didn’t earn them. They came free. What I do with them may or may not give me an excuse for pride.

Photo credit: Garry Armstrong

Assuming, of course, that you believe pride is a good thing and not, as every good Christian should, believe that pride is the ultimate and deadliest of sins.

I am proud of my country’s achievements, but ashamed and embarrassed by other things we’ve done. I believe our Constitution is one of the finest legal documents ever written. That we so often fail to live up to it saddens me, but at least we had founders who weren’t airheads or mass murderers, a burden other nations bear.

Pride implies you actively participated or contributed to whatever makes you proud. I don’t think being born qualifies. Birth gets you get a ticket to stand at the starting line plus a chance to run the race. To live. After that, it’s the life you live that matters.

So I’m glad to be an American. I’m happy I was born here and not in Sarajevo or Beijing. But I didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t a choice I made. Nothing was required of me. My mother’s pregnancy occurred here and not somewhere else. If she had been Mexican or Turkish? Then, by current jingoistic ethnocentric guidelines, I’d surely be proud to be Turkish or  Mexican.

Borders are lines on a map. There are no substantive differences except those imposed by tradition and politicians who live on one side or the other of an invisible, artificial, politically driven boundary. If you live on the border of another country, you are no doubt aware the only reason you are who you are is luck. For that matter, your social status, your class, religion, ethnicity, level of wealth of poverty … all dumb luck.

Liberty Hall, Philadelphia

You aren’t special because you were born to a family that is rich, white, Christian, Republican or anything else. You are not defined by your parents nor by their traditions, religion, politics, or social status.

The life you live will define you. The choices you make, the work you do, the way you treat the rest of God’s creatures as you walk your path determine your character.

Being righteous isn’t special. It’s what you are supposed to do. That’s why you have a conscience and free will. Whatever you got or didn’t get when you were born determines where you stand as the race begins, but you define who you are at the finish.

What you do in this world may perhaps be something to take pride in.  Where and what you were at your birth are not.

Does that make me unpatriotic? Patriotism and love of country should be tempered by intelligence and the understanding that nations, like people, don’t always do the right thing. You are entitled to judge your country, state, and elected officials by the same standards as anything or anyone else. Judge your homeland on its merits, not because an accident of birth dropped you there.

This isn’t the currently popular viewpoint, but if you get it, spread it. No nation gets a free pass for bad behavior. You don’t get a free pass for bad behavior, do you?

Most of us are glad if we break even at the end of the month. We don’t have batteries of lawyers to finagle our way out of trouble. We have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Being “a product of your times or environment” is no excuse for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, or cruelty. It is never acceptable to mistreat people because they are different or your segment of society despises them.

You aren’t special. You just think you are.

Ask God. Ask yourself. Look in a mirror. What have you done to deserve the air you breathe? If you don’t have an answer, you probably should reconsider your priorities and maybe, your life.


Categories: Ethics and Philosophy, History, Politics, Racism and Bigotry, Religion

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. I agree with Bob M. Heavy duty stuff here. Proud we finally see that flag in the background of recent picture taken.


    • I get really tired of everybody being so proud. People used to say “I love my country!” Now, it’s “I’m proud to be an American.” The distance between those two statements is enormous and meaningful. Sorry to drop such a weight so early in the morning … and such a lovely morning, too.


  2. That was a really heavy topic Marilyn. Your sincerity certainly came through. I agree with the vast majority of what you said.


    • I just wish more people would remember the whole “Love” thing. I do love this country and sometimes, I am very proud of it. Sometimes not so proud. I am unquestionably grateful to be living here and not somewhere else, especially since I did live somewhere else and I can say for sure I’d much rather be here than anywhere else on earth … well … maybe a beach in the Caribbean with handsome lads bringing me cold fruity umbrella drinks while a zephyr breeze rustles the palm leaves against an azure sky. Otherwise, here is fine.


      • Oooh, now that does sound good. I lived in the Far east for 3 years and agree that nothing compares to the states. I had a Korean friend get her appendix removed in a Korean hospital. Her room had 4 walls and a heated floor, no bed. My Korean wife & I brought her everything else. They used ether to knock her out for the operation. That was 1971.


  3. I’m proud to be humble. 😉


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