The Quicksand of Reason

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.” ~ Jane Austen

You can tell a lot about a person by participating in a sporting activity with him. At times what you see confirms his quotidian demeanor, while at others what is revealed tells another tale. A calm, cool collected friend might show his sharper, more aggressive side in the heat of competition, while another who is scattered or skittish in the day-to-day might reveal an uncommon focus and resolve on the field, court or course.

No doubt you’ve had the occasion to play with or against another who beat himself up mercilessly. This is the McEnroe type, where emotions flare on the slightest provocation and self-deprecation is matched only by the hyper-critical attitudes taken towards others (particularly the referees or umpires). The angrier and more tense such a player becomes, the more likely he is to make mistakes, for how you view yourself – whether you take pride in your expression or not – has a significant impact on your performance.

Do you take pride in your accomplishments, abilities and general approach to living? It is healthy to take a certain measure of pride in what you do, but take care, pride has its limits. Taken too far, pride mutates into hubris, a decidedly ugly quality.

Pride is a natural by-product of having done your best in any situation. If you are motivated by a deep internal drive to do the right thing, the radiant quality of pride makes an impression on those around you. Some will find it inspiring, while others will see it as a threat. If, on the other hand, you do what you do to be seen a certain way by others, you’ve taken the first step on the road to vanity. And as Francois de la Rochefoucauld sagely noted, “If vanity does not overthrow all our virtues, at least she makes them totter.”

George Sand claimed that “Vanity is the quicksand of reason” for good reason, for when you base what you do on a desire to change the way others think of you, you release the reins of righteousness and become a puppet, largely of your own imagination. Your ability to reason, more than anything, suffers and as a consequence, the tail – the world around you – begins to wag the dog.

The world would be a different place were vacuous vanity to be replaced by genuine pride. Unless I am missing something, there does not appear to be a magic pill or a magic wand somewhere capable of catalyzing this change, so it’s up to each one to make the change in himself as required.

Make it so, number one!

10 thoughts on “The Quicksand of Reason

  1. Colin

    I guess having pride and having integrity go hand in hand. You do what you think is right, not because of who is watching, or because a way is easier, but because it is the right thing. That is something that we could use more of in the world. Thanks!


  2. jaymorrow

    Good explanation of pride vs vanity. One is a feeling after some type of success or job well done and the other is a big investment with no profitable return…kind of like “fools gold”


  3. Kai Newell

    Thank you for the comprehensive definitions of pride and vanity. It definitely put me on the hot seat to make some adjustments. Love it!


  4. Brad

    “when you base what you do on a desire to change the way others think of you, you release the reins of righteousness and become a puppet, largely of your own imagination” – hadn’t seen it in those terms – thanks for the reminder – no sense in living like a puppet on a string


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