Sunday, November 23, 2008


Pride is a difficult concept for me.

Pride can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon how it is applied. I am proud to be of Irish heritage, I am proud to be a woman, I am proud to be a lesbian, I am proud to be a writer, and I am proud to be a tradeswoman.

I have marched in Gay Pride parades and Irish Pride (St. Pat's) parades and enjoyed them both. I have participated in conferences and panel discussions for women in the trades and I have volunteered and served on gay pride committees in two different states. In one state I had a great time, in the other I turned out to be very unpopular and got tossed off the committee in a most undignified fashion. The trades stuff has always been a positive thing for me.

Pride is considered to be one of the seen deadly sins, a thing that can result in a soul's eternal damnation. I guess I can see that. That committee experience was pretty awful.

Pride is arrogance and ego at work. Pride in its sinful form is an attitude that says "kiss my ring." I have little use for people who feel they are better than me, or better than others. But I know that I sometimes behave that way. I hold myself above others, and I really have no business doing that. I judge others and find them lacking, and fancy myself better than they. That is not right, nor is it healthy for my soul.

I like to think that I am better at this or that than others. I like to think I am smarter, funnier, more clever, and any other number of good things. More humble somehow never makes that list. Imagine.

This past week I had a really great experience. I ran into a friend last Saturday at a community supper. Turns out he had lots of experience putting in windows in houses. Imagine that. The windows for this big project I am working on had just been delivered and needed to be put in, but I had never worked with anything this large before and I needed help. I acknowledged that I was in over my head a bit on this project, and the guy agreed to help. I paid him more than I usually pay people, but he is a journeyman carpenter with lots of experience and knowledge that I needed. His ability and knowledge was worth every dollar.

Here are some pictures of what we did:

First, from the outside:

Then a couple of the inside:

And a detail of the shims and nails along the top of one of the fixed windows:

Am I proud of what we did? You betcha. The windows are plumb, square, level and weatherproofed. And I learned a ton. John was a patient teacher and a perfectionist in his craft, and I am extremely grateful. I learned how to do it the right way, not the meatball way that some contractors do when it is cold and they'd rather be inside doing something not so cold and nasty.

That kind of pride seems to be healthy to me. It is good to be pleased with a job well done. I cannot believe that is sinful, I just cannot. It would be sinful if I tried to take all the credit, for that would be dishonest. It would be sinful to claim that our work was/is better than any other team of contractors on the island, for that would be dishonest as well. We did honest work, we did good quality work, and I would be pleased to have it in my own home. We can be proud of that, and I think we are.

I don't have a problem with that kind of pride, for it is pride in honest effort. It is not false pride, it is not self-inflation at someone else's expense. And it began with me getting humble and asking for help. I did not do this job on my own brilliance and superhuman strength. I did this job by asking for help and then accepting it. I had to accept that I was not the expert, I was not the master craftswoman. I was the novice here, and there was no shame in admitting that. Nor was there shame in asking for help. That was humility, something I wrote about earlier this month. And it was healthy.

Humility is healthy, and sometimes, so is pride. It shows self-respect and self-worth. When it becomes perverted by power and ego, it becomes sinful. But this week, with this job, I am proud of what I have learned, what I have accomplished, and of how I went about it. And I'm really OK with that.


A Spot of T said...

I was sitting here a little wide-eyed when I first started reading. I've always been pretty happy with having some pride in myself and probably a little too much when it comes to asking for help. My pride always gets in the way when it comes to asking for help. But as I read on, I was happy to see a person can have pride yet not go overboard...if they're careful. The windows look great. As someone who can barely hit a nail with a hammer, I can't even imagine doing anything like that.

Robin said...

I think you nailed this one (pun only slightly intended). Spot on.

Bull said...

Ah yes, pride. It's a toughie because it seems necessary in a sense. It helps us do good work - we have a reputation we are proud of and want to uphold. It helps us stand up for ourselves and what we know to be right.

I think it's the product of unbridled pride - hubris, to be exact - that is the truly deadly ground here. Hubris gets people (and institutions, companies, nations...) into some pretty serious jams. I can think of a few right now.

Great post.