Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

Pride is this thing in our society that gets confusing.  A certain amount is good.  Too much and we’re in trouble.  It’s good to feel pride in your hard work and accomplishments or feel a sense of pride in your country or race or High School or your father or your granddaughter.  It’s another thing altogether to think you are right and your spouse is wrong and you can read your spouse’ mind and you know everything and he’d of she’d better listen to you.

I’ve got these theories that could never be tested.  I’m sure that God weighs the heart and he’ll quantify pride in the sinful sense on judgment day, but how would you quantify pride for research?  I was curious and looked up “pride” on ERIC, a database for researchers.  It popped up in 1600 abstracts, more than I cared to look at.  I scrolled through a few but couldn’t see much that would help me.  It came up on some emotional scales, but was viewed solely as a positive thing.  It’s most common use was in terms of racial pride, which is understandable because the E in ERIC stands for Educational.

I hadn’t really thought of “pride” as an emotion.  I’ll have to think about that awhile.  Maybe I’ve read the Bible too much.  I’m used to verses like:

In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 10:4


But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.

2 Chronicles 26:16

and the idea that when Adam and Eve sinned it was fundamentally the pride of wanting to be like god that led to their (and our) downfall, not exactly the kind of thing a person would want to excel at.

The kind of pride I’m thinking of is the kind I see in therapy.  The reason I was wondering about quantifying pride is because the researchers on marriage are saying that the biggest predictor of marital breakdown is how the couple handles conflict which by and large is a nice way of saying if they crap on each other in their anger they aren’t going to do very well.  This anger thing is a bugaboo.   The two extremes are lashing out and shutting down, two peas in a pod.  If you lash out and say mean and hurtful things to your wife she’s probably not going to think: “The poor dear.  He’s had such a rough go of it lately.”  If you shut down and withdraw from your wife, she’s not going to think that’s nice how mysteriously shy you are.  No, it’ll probably make her madder than a pistol and she’ll shut down or lash out in return.  One well known researcher (John Gottman), writes there’s not two extremes, there’s 4: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  I can’t decide if he’s quantified anger or pride.  Is anger the feeling and pride the spirit behind the feeling?

I don’t know.  Gottman’s looking for things he can measure in his laboratory.  He can measure heart rates and facial expressions.  I can feel anger in my clients.  I can sense stubbornness.  I’m just thinking that, the bottom line, pride might be the biggest predictor of marital breakdown.  Not sure.  I’m just a therapist dude.  I haven’t had much luck talking people out of pride.  It seems kind of a shame to me to be married and think you are right all the time.  The whole idea of marriage is two heads are better than one.  I don’t know everything.  Neither do you.  So we compare notes and maybe between the two of us we can figure out the path we need to go.  But if I’m right and you are wrong…all the time (!) then I don’t need you!  High five to me and too bad for you.  What’s the point of that?

Look how this works.  If your partner disagrees with you, this is a GOOD THING!!!!  He’s seeing something you don’t see!  She’s got some wisdom you don’t have.  I think I’m in good company here.  Consider the following:

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Proverbs 13:10

Patience is better than pride.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

You could try this on for size and see how it works, like an experiment.  The next time your spouse makes a suggestion to you and you find your pride kicking in your anger and your heart rate is rising and your temper is shifting into second, stop a second and say, “OK.  Let’s just slow down here and consider what he’s (or she, as the case may be) saying.  Maybe I don’t know everything.”  You’ll be amazed.

I know.  I had to learn this the hard way.  My wife has saved me so much grief, I can’t tell you.  She’s made a believer out of me (in her).  I’m just glad she kept plugging away and didn’t give up on me until my pride had a chance to cool.  If I could find a way to package that, I’d be on Oprah.

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