All my life, I have been taught two contradictory ideas. One from my church: beware of pride, because it proceeds the fall (meaning your downfall). The other from my school: have pride in myself, my appearance, my team. I didn’t understand how pride could be both a good and bad thing. The question continued to morph as my life changed. Was it bad that I had such swelling feelings of pride in my son’s kindness? Or my best time at a 5K (32 minutes, with steep hills, if you must know)?
And then everything changed. My income dropped by a third from one year to the next. And then dropped by a third the year after that, even though I had more than doubled the amount of books I had for sale. I began looking around at other authors (granted, there weren’t many) who were still succeeding, despite the indie market crash. I buckled down, wrote more books, and released them faster. I had a strict deadline and often pulled ten hours five to six days a week.
It didn’t work. My sales continued to hover right around unimpressive. I was devastated. I’d worked so hard, sacrificed so much, and I tasted success. And then it was gone.
For what had to be the 100th time, I wondered if it was time to quit. Get a real job with a steady paycheck. But I still loved creating stories. It was the schedule that was killing me. And maybe not making fantastic, life changing money was a blessing. Because I was free to stop. Or at least go to half-time. Free to say yes to lunch dates with friends or a spontaneous trip to visit family for a week. Free to add working out back into my schedule. Free to help others who need a meal or a cookie or a pair of strong arms to move boxes or wipe tears.
It was around this same time that I found a quote by C.S. Lewis and I finally understood. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
The danger of pride is comparing yourself to those above or below you: “I wish I could be more like them!” or “I’m so much better than them!”. Neither is fair to you or the other person. The key for me was that even if that comparison was (mostly) to myself, it was still harmful.
I’m not making the money I was before. And that doesn’t change my intrinsic worth one bit. It never did. There are three things that are worth our constant efforts: working hard, being happy, and serving others. Everything else is just clutter.