Concerning Pride



    PRIDE has long been enrolled among the vices which we should abhor, – has been execrated by the church, and condemned by popular consent as a spiritual attribute to be eradicated; and there is a sort of pride, or a degree of pride, which is altogether personal, petty, and unworthy, and which is only saved from being most offensive by being ridiculous.
    Pride, however, is essentially and fundamentally one of the virtues, not one of the vices. Pride, if you analyze it, seems to be one of the component parts of love. For in love there is an unreasoned, incomprehensible attraction for another, which draws us often in spite of [Page 213] our better judgment, in spite of our finer instinct, and which we call the physical element of love. It is not at all an ignoble quality, as many have mistakenly fancied. It is not a quality of which to be ashamed, or of which we should try to rid ourselves. It is probably governed by reasons more complex and subtle than we comprehend. And powerful as it is, its mandates must be given their due weight.
    Physical attraction, or the primitive blind forceful bidding of cosmic nature, is only a third of love, however. There are two other constituents, equally important. The second constituent is spiritual, and partakes of the nature of worship or reverence, and leads to those beautiful enduring acts of devotion which we so commonly associate with the idea of love. But the third constituent of the passion of love is pride. Love manifests itself in our bodies as instinctive craving, in our souls as devotion, and in our minds as pride.
    No love is complete without pride. It is not enough that I feel an irresistible liking for [Page 214] my friend, and that I rejoice in an unswerving devotion toward him. I must be able to retain my pride in him as well. My judgment must be able to consider him in all his dealings and find him good. When I can no longer take pride in my friend, there is only the ghost of love left. When he does that of which I must disapprove, perfect friendship is imperilled. I may continue to be devoted as before, but the fair relation of our lives is impaired. I can no longer give him that unqualified enthusiasm, that delightful zest of the spirit, which betokens a great friendship. When I think of him my thought is infected with sadness. I no longer love him with my whole being; my pride in him, for the time being at least, has suffered injury.
    Just so in the relations of men and women, pride is the savour of love. Adam is enamoured of Eve, first by propinquity, second by admiration, lastly be unselfish devotion. But the admiration, the pride in Eve’s traits and accomplishments, is at first probably much [Page 215] more than one-third of Adam’s feelings toward her. And all through their courtship Eve has enough intuitive wisdom to foster this pride of Adam’s toward herself; and Adam, taught by the same wise nature, knows without thinking that he must be his best before Eve. Then follows the ceremony, the sad enthrallment, which appears to be necessary still, and which is so often fatal to love. But why fatal? Why should marriage be so indubitably a means of the destruction of love? Why is it so rarely the ideal relation which we persist in pretending it is?
    Is it not because of disillusionment? And does not the disillusion follow from carelessness?

    No sooner has Eve become Mrs. Adam than she takes Adam’s love for granted. She begins to rely on her marriage certificate. That terrific endowment is endowed with so much real and manifest power over the will and the action of her companion that she inevitably comes to consider Adam’s heart as firmly bound as Adam’s person. Little by [Page 216] little she neglects those instinctive admonitions of her nature, which would bid her always appeal to Adam’s pride in her. She no longer feels it necessary to please him, to appear to best advantage in his sight. He is only her husband; it doesn’t matter. She “braces up” “for company,” but when “only Adam” is at home she may go as slipshod and negligent as she pleases.
    And Adam? Well, Adam doesn’t shave every day now. There will be no one at breakfast but Eve. When the dinner is not good he can grumble a little, if there is no one present but his wife. He, too, has forgotten that pride is one-third of love.
    So Adam and Eve reveal to each other their petty faults, their insignificant flaws of character, which so little care would hide; the admiration of each for the other is gradually destroyed; pride is allowed to die, and with the death of pride love receives a mortal wound. Oh, Eve, how can you be so foolish? How can you imagine that any silly writing [Page 217] upon paper will bind an immortal being to you, when you allow that being’s pride in you to be outraged every day? And oh, Adam, what a fool you must be to allow Eve to suffer one moment’s disillusion in regard to you! If you cannot retain the love of Eve, it is your fault, very often, and not hers; and you deserve to lose her. And if she cannot command your continual regard, ten to one it is her own fault and not yours.
    Of all the cause which make for the overthrow of love and the destruction of the happiness between men and women, (so sad and, alas, so common!), surely none is surer nor more frequent than this loss of pride. Yet some men are so fatuous that they will not allow others to retain any illusion in regard to themselves. They insist on revealing all their weaknesses, with a fond notion that an engaging frankness is better than deception. Not so. No man has the power of reaching his own ideal, unless he inculcates that ideal of himself in the minds of others [Page 218].
    But noble, generous, wise, and modest pride is not a virtue much in vogue in our day. Are we not apt to think that democracy consists in making ourselves no better than our neighbours? Whereas true democracy implies only the free and fair chance to each man to be his best. The capacity for being one’s best remains unchanged; and the duty of being one’s best stands as obligatory as ever. I believe in freedom for all (the wise man might say), because I believe in it for myself, in order that I may realize my better and greater self. And to do this one must have pride, – pride that keeps one erect and unflinching to the last, – pride that insists on scrupulous manners, admirable breeding, deep culture, and impeccable self-control, – pride that preserves for ever the beautiful and radiant illusions of the soul. For without pride in ourselves, in our work, and in each other, life becomes sordid and vulgar and slovenly; the work of our hands unlovely; and we ourselves hopeless and debased [Page 219].