What's wrong with being proud of one's self?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 6, 2005

In my June 22nd column I stressed the importance of humility, especially in educational achievements. I said that neither a high school diploma nor a university degree is a license to treat others with contempt. Rather, it's about giving back to the community.

Cochrane coffee companion Doyle Peterson, an international project management consultant, responded that even having an MBA can be a problem, if it leads to arrogance instead of better-informed listening. He sent me a review by David Creelman of Henry Mintzberg's book Managers, not MBAs.

Creelman takes seriously Mintzberg's advice to corporations: "Look for programs where people come out with humility." Creelman adds: "No wise person can be anything but humble in the face of the complexity of the world."

Right on, says Don Sylvestre, owner of HQ Coffee Company & Pie Emporium in Cochrane. "Having an education lets you know just how little you do know."

From Morley, Tina Fox wrote with gratitude for the reference to the late Chief Walking Buffalo. In her own travels around the world, she keeps bumping into people touched by the globetrotting goodwill ambassador's example of humility.

"As knowledgeable and well known as (Walking Buffalo) was, he was never arrogant or full of self-pride," Tina said. "He followed and lived the (Stoney) Nakoda traditional teachings which stipulate that as a Nakoda person you respect all of life and never consider yourself to be above or better than anyone else. We are one with our fellow human beings, with all of creation, and with our Creator. It is those of us who have forgotten our teachings that sometimes think we are better than others because we are better educated. That is unfortunate."

Not everyone, however, was happy with my choice of the word humility. Calgary coffee companion Jeff Perkins wrote that too often that word suggests pride is always wrong.

"Yet, to see a child's face light up with pride when well-earned praise is forthcoming is an incredible pleasure. To share the pride of an Olympic winner is wonderful. To see the pride of a grandmother with her grandchildren is heart warming."

Jeff's point is well taken, and it has to do with a problem in the English language. The word pride has two distinctly different meanings: the one, as Jeff notes, refers to a sense of self-respect and good feeling – and may we all be blessed with this kind of pride. The other meaning – the one about which sages of old have long warned us – refers to an exaggerated opinion of oneself at the expense of others – "arrogance" – and may that kind of pride, like a raging flood, stay far away from all of us.

Before I wrap up this week's column, I want to return to the anniversary surprise I wrote about last week. Many of you have asked to see before-and-after photographs of Debbie Vandelaar and Kate Millar, the two gals who pulled off the scavenger hunt, disguising themselves as ranch hands so my wife and I wouldn't recognize them as they followed us around town. Here they are:

Debbie (left) and Kate as "ranch hands." Photo by Fred Monk.


Kate (left) and Debbie in real life. Photo by Warren Harbeck.

© 2005 Warren Harbeck

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