[Updated from the archives.]
Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy sat for an interview once and was asked: What are you proud of? The question stumped her:
There are so many ways to blow a question like that. There are the obvious ways: you can outright brag, which is bad, or humble brag, which is worse.
Or you can sabotage yourself in a more subtle way. Unfortunately, for women, talking about your business successes undermines your likability. It’s much safer to defer, claiming luck or circumstance as the cause of our success, rather than anything we did. Naming a professional success we’re proud of is dangerous.
It’s not that much easier for men. Tooting my own horn is no easier for me than a woman bragging about herself would be.
It might come down to what you mean by the word “pride”, though. Anne included a helpful definition.
pride: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
“the team was bursting with pride after recording a sensational victory”
synonyms: pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement
In light of that dictionary definition, what it really looks like to me is not a matter of what I am most proud of but what I am most pleased about.
The Pleasure of Taking Pride
When I look at the things I’ve experienced (what some people might call my accomplishments) I see that dictionary definition of the word pride fitting perfectly, even if I don’t call it being proud.
Am I proud of my marriage? I would say that I am pleased at the fact we just celebrated our 30th anniversary and that I enjoy my wife’s company over any other person I know. (There are tons of people who are tied for second, and our kids are in a category of their own – see preceding paragraph.)
Am I proud of how my blog has come along? I have to say that I am pleased that people come by to read and comment and engage in discussion and thus make it a better blog than it could possibly be without them. (I count many of my bloggy friends as among those tied for second – see preceding paragraph.)
Am I proud of my accomplishments at work? I’m pleased to wake up in the morning and be able to say “I get to go to work today” and work at a job I really enjoy, seem to be good at, and get to do with wonderful colleagues I’ve gotten to know and make friends with from all over the state.
So if what I call “pleased” is what the dictionary defines as “pride”, then I suppose these are some of the things I’m proud of.
But either way, I’m blessed.
Getting Boastful About It
The danger of being prideful and boastful is that it puts the focus on us when it should be on God. Still, the Bible encourages boastfulness of a certain kind:
This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24.)
It is not our earthly accomplishments that are worth boasting about, then, but the fact that we know God. After all, do you know anyone else who is truly kind and just and righteous? No wonder a relationship with God is something to be pleased with, something to be proud about, something to boast in.
Yet even this relationship is not something we can take credit for and boast about as if we accomplished it.
… it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9.)
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31.)
So we see there truly is a blessing in boasting when the boasting is about God, who he is and what he has done. As the psalmist said, God is worth tooting a horn about.
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy. …
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:1, 5-7.)