Pride and Presumption

Instant Netflix just added the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice, which I love. It has a fantastic soundtrack, beautiful shots, and a stubborn and willful leading couple. I love it when main characters share my faults, and stubbornness is certainly one of them.

With such a simple title, you’re really encouraged to think about what pride and prejudice are as concepts, and how they contribute to the roadblocks that keep the main players apart until the end. I had an interesting realization doing some creativity exercises. I was reminded of times when I’ve said to a friend, “I’m proud of you.”

When I was younger I think I could say that without any pangs of discomfort. As I grew up, though, I realized the presumption that’s inherent in telling someone you are proud of them. To say you’re proud implies not only that you are at a higher proficiency level than them, and therefore able to appreciate the progress they’ve made, but also that you had some hand in guiding them to their success.

I think parents fall prey to this fairly often. I don’t know if they mean to appropriate the accomplishments of their children, but there’s always a shade of that, when they say they are proud of their kids. Like it was thanks to their genetics, their upbringing, their influence, that led their child to success. Perhaps I’m too touchy, but I never like to hear it. And times when I’ve said it to peers, I’ve realized that I’m actually looking down on them as I say it.

We’ll be careful to try not to do this with our little one, I think. There’s not much worse than someone stealing a piece of your success from you. It hardly encourages people to keep accomplishing things, if they don’t get to hold on to 100% of the pride in that accomplishment. I think the only people I wouldn’t mind hearing “I’m proud of you” from are my former teachers. I acknowledge them as mentors, though, as possessing more skill and experience than I in certain areas. They have guided me and therefore deserve some of the credit.

I feel like good parenting happens on its own, when the parents aren’t actually trying to guide and influence their kid. If your parents are good people, that will rub off on you. So often “trying” means “trying too hard,” and then turns into overcompensating and all that extra effort just spills over and puts pressure on the kid. I don’t pretend to know the secrets to motivating good behavior and good choices without placing some kind of pressure on a child, but there has to be a way. We’ll try to find it, whatever it is.


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