20 Questions In 30 DAYS – Q2. WHAT IS A MEME? and why is how you think as important as what you think

We have answered question 1. Do not trust your feelings because they are so vulnerable to change and influence that it’s a very very unreliable source of data and guidance for even your marriage. Yes, what makes you feel good will attract you and what makes you feel bad you’ll try to change or move away from, but that’s going to end up making you extremely easily led and disempowered.

Remember, whatever you react to leads you, whether it’s attraction or repulsion, elation or depression, infatuation or resentment, all of those are actually in perfect balance, but you don’t see that at first. So the feeling of attraction will eventually reveal itself as repulsion, the feeling of elation (upper) will result in depression (downer) and infatuation (which is more positives than negatives) will result in resentment (more negatives than positives). By reaction, which means following your feelings you become the fool, and people will play you like a flute. Or like a child with candy.

So we move now to today’s question on Memes.

Rather than talk to you about generic memes, I am going to use the meme of pride. Being proud of what you do, or what others do, is a meme because generally no one questions whether that is healthy or not. They simply think it’s good or if you’re a Christian and your preacher has a passion for the bible – it’s a deadly sin. Nowhere do meme’s clash more sharply with contemporary sensibilities than on the moral status of PRIDE.

Now, once again, feelings are based on the definition of pleasure and pain, or right and wrong. So, if someone or you, do something that’s called “good” you will and they will feel good. But people don’t think about meme’s. Is good really good. Can there be a good without a bad. Can there be a pleasure without a pain? If the answer is no, then feelings are temporary lies that will lead to personal, relationship and business disaster.

Let’s get to the PRIDE topic.

Pride is a meme, a thought you usually believe is right or wrong without thinking about it. Many people who follow the Bible have long counted pride as a sin—indeed, the “original sin” that generates every other sin. C.S. Lewis speaks for many moralists when he calls pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil.” He asserts that pride “is the complete anti-God state of mind”. Which, for others might me absolute rubbish when they say “I am proud of my children or even my achievements in life.”

This other group, pro pride, view pride as a virtue and a key component in emotional maturity and self-actualisation. Therapists seek to instill in clients positive self-regard, teachers try to boost student self-esteem, and social movements justify their programs in the name of gay pride, black pride, and the like. It might seem, therefore, that people in the “people helping” professions are caught between incompatible perspectives.

As members of organised religion, the meme they have been taught is that pride is a vice; but as professionals, they have been trained to view the meme of pride as a virtue. And this is the danger of a meme. An authority or tradition or organised culture can take the thinking out of thinking so we don’t ask “Which is true?” We think that we think, but don’t think. And that’s why feelings are so dangerous as a guide to achievement, love and health. Feelings bypass thinking and are therefore subject to meme’s we don’t examine.

Extremes of this include global warming (bad), inclusiveness (good), deforestation (bad), longevity (good), happiness (good), sadness (bad).

Most of my students will already know that there is truth on both sides of every meme which, in itself kills the childlike addiction to feelings.

On the topic of pride, they can see how pride causes people to refuse help (bad and good) or rebel against legitimate authority (bad and good).

They have also seen how people without proper pride become trapped in abusive relationships or give up on themselves.

Wisdom dictates that when we think about what we think about pride, we need an analysis that integrates insights from tradition in order to distinguish “bad” side of pride from its health-giving “good” side of pride. We also need a clear grasp of pride’s chief characteristics and consequences (positive and negative) in order to rightly see the balance of nature in the often prescribed antidote to pride as humility. (positive and negative).

So, the key to mastering your life, which means determining your own feelings is to think about the memes that cause you to react. Put simply, it means to think objectively about the meme’s that cause you reaction. To think about what you are prescribed to think, the memes, so you can see, with two eyes instead of one.

When you do, feelings do not become the core around which you function. If there are two sides to everything, and there certaintly are, then you become ambivalent around meme’s and can really choose your path, rather than react and follow feelings that are generated by meme’s.

But not everyone wants that viewpoint of balance. Most, and I do mean most, prefer the meme, not thinking, thinking. They prefer the naivety of feelings and then complain bitterly about the result.

The Nature of Pride

Few words in our moral vocabulary convey so wide a spectrum of meanings as “pride.” It can connote anything from narcissism to self-confidence to self-respect. Many disagreements over the moral status of pride can be traced to differences in how the word is understood.

A classic definition of vicious pride is the one put forward by the Medieval Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza: “Pride is thinking more highly of oneself than is just, out of love for oneself”. In other words, pride is inordinate self-esteem arising out of self-centredness.

Although correct as far as it goes, this definition does not quite do justice to pride’s irreligiousness and aggressiveness. I would propose, therefore, that pride is best viewed as an irreligious and antisocial assertion of the self. But before fleshing out what this definition entails, it is important to distinguish pride from related but different concepts.

ClarifyiNg The CoNCePT

Pride should not be con- fused with self-respect. Unlike pride, self-respect does not imply feelings of superiority. Pride has to do with rights and dignity, not always merit.

The person with self-respect “has pride too,” but that means they will be ashamed to violate their conscience, not that they think themselves better than others.

Self-respect is indispensable to a life of success. It is the skeleton of the soul that protects integrity by preventing the wrong sort of flexibility. A person may have too much self-esteem (bad pride), but no one can have too much self-respect (good pride).

Pride should also not be confused with proper self-esteem. People are sometimes quick to condemn all self-satisfaction as an expression of weakness. There is a proper self-esteem that is the result of evaluating oneself with “sober judgment”. It is not based on self marketing, stock portfolios, beauty contests, or social prominence; it is the fruit of a clear-eyed assessment of one’s own character and achievements.

As such, proper self-esteem is a barometer that rises and falls with the quality of one’s life. People who measure themselves with sober judgement can and will feel good about themselves irrespective of their goals; people who say one thing – set a goal and then do the opposite to achieving it, will not.

Pride must not be confused with self-love.

People commonly condemn self-love as a form of narcissism. The biblical command of “do unto others” can legitimately be reversed to say “love your- self as you love others.” Self-love “does not mean your pulse should quicken every time you look into a mirror any more than its supposed to quicken every time your neighbour passes the window”. One can care for self and others without being enamored of either. Obsession with oneself is not true self-love, just as obsession with a lover is not true romance.

Proper self-esteem is a barometer that rises and falls with the quality of one’s life. Real people will feel good about themselves; puffery people will not.

Finally, pride must not be confused with “feeling proud.” Pride is an endur-
ing character trait; “feeling proud” is a transitory emotion.

One can feel proud without being proud. A researcher who discovers an important new cancer therapy can be elated by their achievement without being “puffed up” by it. Indeed, if their work leads to public honours, they will likely feel both proud and humbled by the recognition. A person whose son joins a prestigious New York law firm might almost “burst with pride,” but their feelings are a proper and natural expression of love. The parent identifies with their son and thus shares their elation. Ironically, the failure to feel pride over honours received by oneself or loved ones may actually be an expression of pride. It may reflect a sense of superiority—a haughty disdain for honours and the people who give them.


Pride, the dark side of it, must not, then be confused with self-respect, proper
self-esteem, self-love, or “feeling proud”— each of which is essential for human flourishing.

As already noted, (bad side) pride is best viewed as an irreligious and antisocial assertion of the self.

We see this in the way (bad) pride elevates the self over others.

We say that people who are proud are “stuck up” and complain that they “look down their noses” at everyone else. We complain that they ride a “high horse” and isolate themselves in an “ivory tower.” We criticise them for acting “high and mighty.” But is there a positive to that too?

We could say that the same pride expands the self beyond the limits of their environment including parents and colleagues. That would be a great force of nature. If the proud are “full of themselves”—“puffed up” or “inflated” with self-importance they might just be visionaries. They might, in their self-talk, fantasise about being “larger than life” and fear nothing more than shrinking in power or visibility, a fantastic mindset but not a very “community minded” headspace. Proud people assert themselves and disregard the opinions and needs of others, something that grows them, builds resilience, but makes them hard to manage. They resent any boundary that constricts their freedom to act as they wish. Such as an entrepreneur, a world champion, a performer on stage or whoever has a passion for success.

The proud also assert the self by laying claim to glory. They imagine themselves to be radiant with success or beauty or intelligence or virtue or piety. Their self-glorification can sometimes expand into absurdity. Pride finds pleasure only in what sets it apart. So for those who love the equality model, socialism, and all for one and one for all, this is the dark side and why Pride is a meme of badness.

Proud people not only put themselves before others, they separate themselves from others—and is this a good or bad result. For a HR department of a company it’s terrible if the objective is harmony. But if the culture of a company is entrepreneurial and inspired it can be the exact inspiration of success.

For example, a proud monk or nun will be intent on proving themselves to be “singular and exceptional.” They will be “inclined to fast more, pray longer, sleep less, look sicker than their fellows, proving that they are a singularly holy person.” Any discipline that “must be done in common with their peers will automatically loses its luster”.

Varieties of Pride

We can see, then, that pride can be an assertion of the self that is both irreligious and antisocial. The actual form pride takes will vary from person to person. In general, however, we may say that the commonly called BAD PRIDE appears in three “species”: vanity, conceit, and arrogance.

1. Vanity. Vanity is preoccupied with appearances. BAD VIEW IS – The vain person does not so much seek to be admirable as to be admired. He or she derives self-esteem from the turned head, public honors, and tokens of success. GOOD VIEW IS – Dress for success, the vanity is good business strategy and self respect, environment around us includes how we appear. Being respectful of that is a use of pride to demonstrate greatness. Animals do this too.

The darks side of Vanity can lead to worrying about what others think, and to depend on an admiring audience to brace up tenuous self- esteem, they are vulnerable to the shifting opinions of the crowd, the passage of time, the contingencies of fate, and the prominence of competitors. Vanity can be the most fragile form of Dark pride. In a sense, it is the most disengaging form of pride because it relies on the approval of others. And yet, such things are not always bad.

2. Conceit. Conceit, on the DARK SIDE, is an exaggerated opinion of one’s virtues and accomplishments. It seeks not so much excellence as superiority and therefore is inherently competitive. As a result, conceit is intensely adversarial. It demands preeminence and will tolerate no rival. If need be, the conceited will diminish others to elevate themselves—as when a boss dismisses a colleague’s genius by noting their lack of “common sense,” or when a musician disparages a peer’s work because it is too popular to be “serious.”

Conceit depends on transmuting real or imagined virtues into a general feeling of personal superiority. Thus, a conceited physicist who cannot hit a baseball, play a violin, or manage a small business will think himself superior to those who can— superior, that is, as a human being, not simply as a scientist. The conceited person thinks themself superior in everything that really matters.

The Good side of Conceit is the exact same, it accepts that mundane is unsatisfactory, that the world is competitive, it is a quest to win and win means success. It also means to value your gifts in a particular area of life, not all, and not to compare yourself to others. Conceited people know their value and defend it. So, conceit is not so bad after all.

3. Arrogance. Arrogance is a feeling of superiority that shows itself in a lofty, over- bearing manner. Whereas vanity needs admirers and conceit needs inferiors, arrogance needs no one. It stands clear of the crowd.

The arrogant are a law unto themselves; they do not need other people to validate their self- image. What other people think or achieve is neither here nor there. The arrogant are too proud to be vain or conceited. We may say, then, that arrogance is the epitome of pride—the darkest side.

But ask yourself who succeeds without self belief. What is visualisation of success without arrogance. Being a law unto ourselves is recognition of the opportunities of life and being willing to live fully. The not arrogant person is compliant, silent and has a small view of themselves. Maybe the best thing that then comes from Pride is arrogance, the willingness to be ourselves in a crowd.

Consequences of Pride

The Dark side of pride leads to calamity, fosters self contempt and self-pity, undermines community, and alienates.The Positive side of pride is individuality, resilience, vision and independence. Two sides to a meme and now we are starting to understand why meme’s exist such as “pride is bad.” They exist because thinking hurts. It confuses us, rattles the mind.

So, if we take the meme of pride there are positive and negative aspects to it. That’s pride and why we need to use it where it works and not where it doesn’t.

Proud people can spread calamity by overestimating their abilities, setting unrealistic goals, refusing to respect appropriate limits, and pushing themselves too hard. But not all people who overestimate their abilities, set unrealistic goals and refuse to respect limits are pushing themselves too hard, often, not hard enough. The limits we set are often based on fear and so, to push the fear boundary is to break out of limits set, usually by small thinking partners, family and company.

Pride can also leads to “spectacularly bad judgments” because proud people pursue their grandiose goals without adequate planning or resources. But not all people who make bad judgements do so because of pride. Sometimes it’s the lack of self-respect and self-esteem that causes spectacularly bad judgements.

People who sell meme’s, such as in this case of bad judgement, are often religious zealots trying to order people into compliant subscribers to a television channel called their religion. watch nothing else. Beware of one sided story telling. It leads to memes that lead to feelings that are lies.

The Dark Side Of Pride advocates will rightly say “pride is a self-expansive it sometimes plunges people into periods of self-contempt and self-pity.” They will argue their side of the meme, that people with too much pride swing from one extreme to the other which is paradoxical but not inexplicable. They’ll argue that pride is part of a strategy for coping with low self-esteem. People who think poorly of themselves will often compensate by creating an imaginary self—an “ideal self” thought to possess prized attributes like brilliance, beauty, skill, virtue, or the like.

But those who argue for the betterment of humanity might say “if pride causes us to create an ideal self to compensate for low self-esteem, then the universe gifted us pride to handle that issue until it’s fixed.

Individuals naturally seek to create an ideal self that they themselves find believable. A plain girl, for example, will be more likely to imagine herself to be an unrecognized genius or a saint than a beauty. Whatever the precise character of the idealized self, its purpose always remains the same: to bolster a fragile self-esteem.

However, no matter how firmly a person identifies with her idealized self, reality has a way of spoiling the fantasy. A self-styled genius may score too low on the GRE to get into graduate school or a “saint” may get caught in a lie. Failure to measure up to the idealized self can sometimes cause a person’s psychological defenses to collapse. She will then swing from grandiosity to self-loathing and self-pity.

To recover their self-esteem, the proud person will likely employ two strategies. They will minimise their failure by insisting that it is inconsequential: to fail in a matter of so little importance was not really a failure at all. They will also attempt to excuse their failure by claiming that success was impossible because of some circumstance beyond their control:
the failure did not really “count.” Both strategies allow the proud person to save face. The punctured ego re-inflates itself with rationalisations. Pride thus completes the cycle from grandiosity to self-contempt and back again to grandiosity.

When face-saving excuses portray the self as a victim, pride expresses itself as self-pity.

So that’s the dark side of Pride. But those very same qualities can be life saving. it’s just too easy to judge (hold onto a meme without considering the origin of the judgement. Maybe a whole body of information was assembled to condemn anyone who, with low self-esteem didn’t go to church to resolve their issues. It’s a convenient meme, it serves an end for those looking for subscribers.


Vanity, conceit, and arrogance have their positive side in propping up low self-esteem, self-worth but they have a dark side, that will disrupt and disorder individual lives, families, and communities. Given common confusions, however, Mentors and coaches must try to help people understand the true nature of pride and humility. Self-respect, proper self-esteem, self-love, and feelings of pride must not be labeled only bad. Sham humility and self-loss as a stage act must not be condemned completely but we certainly benefit by getting past it.

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