Pride

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- There is a lot of talk about pride; pride in our country, in our service or in ourselves. We also hear about pride coming before the fall. With all the uses of this word, do you have a good grasp of what it means and how it affects us whether in a negative or positive way? Is it good, bad or both? In reality, pride can either be a good and noble emotion or it could be a negative and destructive emotion. By definition, pride is a high opinion of one's own dignity, importance or superiority. It also means taking pleasure or satisfaction in something done by oneself or a particular group. So, where's the dividing line between good and bad, is it a sharp line or a gray-fuzzy area?

Taking pride in our job, appearance, contributions to others and having pride in our family life are all examples of good and noble emotions. Pride, when used constructively helps people strive to do better, overcome obstacles and generally speaking, have a positive impact in many aspects of our life.

On the other hand, how can this become a negative attribute?

Pride, when not used to its full potential, can be a negative and destructive emotion interfering with our ability to make accurate assessments of ourselves, our abilities or a situation. For instance, if a person has an unjustified amount of pride in their job performance they may resist making any beneficial changes to improve productivity and efficiency. After all, a person who does a good job generally still has room for some improvement or, at the very least, the process does. When a person or organization believes that they are the best and that they know everything and other people or organizations don't know anything, critical self-examination will not occur. Without that critical self-examination, there can be no growth or improvement. Pride becomes a problem when it causes a person to lose their creativity or objectivity, thus taking their eyes off the target.

It seems to me we have experienced a shift in pride over the last few decades. I remember hearing how proud people were to be Americans in the 1940's and 1950's. People took pride in their jobs and wanted to do the best they could because it was a reflection of themselves. Reputation was an important part of their work ethic.

When I first arrived in Japan, I was struck by the sense of pride our Japanese hosts had in even the smallest tasks. Their dedication to every detail in the delivery and quality of services they provided showed that positive aspect of pride that inspires people to do their best. Most importantly, it is that smallest attention to detail that are often times remembered. Somehow, over the years, that seems to have changed significantly for our culture.

Is pride a good and noble or negative and destructive attribute? That's up to your interpretation. Perhaps if we could turn back the clock just a bit and embrace some of that good old fashioned pride in who we are and what we want to become, either as individuals, as a service or a nation, we could show that sense of American pride.

My challenge to you is to look at what you do, whether it's at home or on the job, and ask yourself if you're doing all you can do, are you proud of how you do it and are you proud of the outcome of your work? After all, that extra few minutes to add that sense of pride is a reflection of your work and your organization.