Pride and Dignity
Do you ever question when to use Pride or Dignity?
I wonder if I'm the only one who sometimes struggles with these two terms, when to use one or the other? When they are more or less synonyms, or complementary, or when they are opposites? It's pretty common to hear pride and dignity used as synonyms, like they both mean the same. In some cases they do, but pride has also a negative connotation that dignity doesn't.
Webster's Online definitions:
1. A feeling of self-respect and personal worth.
2. Satisfaction with your (or another's) achievements; "he takes pride in his son's success".
3. The trait of being spurred on by a dislike of falling below your standards.
5. Unreasonable and inordinate self-esteem (personified as one of the deadly sins).
1. The quality of being worthy of esteem or respect: "it was beneath his dignity to cheat"; "showed his true dignity when under pressure".
2. Formality in bearing and appearance: "he behaved with great dignity".
3. High office or rank or station: "he respected the dignity of the emissaries".
Pride can be a complement to dignity or vice versa, but pride is also a deadly sin, which dignity will never ever be.
If I didn't have a dictionary close at hand, and had to work out by myself what pride and dignity mean, I would say dignity is an inward feeling, an attitude mostly directed at oneself. Instead, pride is displayed outwardly, not so much to oneself as to others.
I think that's why dignity always sounds like a good thing, while I struggle to see the goodness of pride in many situations. To me, pride sounds "good" when it's a complement to one's dignity. For example, taking pride in a job well done, and doesn’t sound so good to me when it occurs in excess ("He's too proud to accept help from friends"), or when rather than being based on self-respect, it's based on a wish to protect one's image ("He's very proud, he'll never admit he was wrong").
Here is what I use when I'm in doubt of what word to apply in any given situation:
Dignity: To do or say something out of self-respect, considering what YOU will think of yourself at the end of the day.
Pride: To do or say something for appearances sake, considering what OTHERS will think of you.
Still, there is a fine line in many contexts. For example, here's a husband and father that can't provide for his family because he's out of a job, but he doesn't want to hear about family lending a hand because:
- He's very dignified; he'll go to the end of earth and back to find a way to provide for his family.
- He's too proud, can't stand the fact that he can't provide and needs to accept help.
What do you think? Is the father and husband in the example very dignified or too proud? Or both? I sometimes don't know what to think, frankly. Maybe it's just me.
I appreciate if you provide your insights on these too words, how you understand them, how you use them, regardless of what the dictionary says about them. In truth, I'm putting this little piece out there to hear what others think about this one.
© 2009 Elena.