Updated: Jul 5
There isn’t much you hear about more frequently these days than what people claim to be proud to be . “Proud to be Irish!” “Proud to be an Aries!” “Proud to be black!” “Proud to be white!” “Proud to be Jewish!” “Proud to be gay!” “Proud to be from Texas!” “Proud to be a woman!” and the ever-so-popular “Proud to be an American!” (I’m sure you can hear the song playing in your head right now . . . “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free . . .”). If you want a glimpse into all of the different things people take pride in, do a Google Image search on “proud to be.” You will be amazed at all of the different kinds of pride you’ll find
Personally, I am not proud to be any of those things.
I am proud of my accomplishments, and I am proud of my family and friends when they accomplish things.
I am not proud (or ashamed) of anything I can’t control, and certainly not proud of where I was born or the makeup of my DNA.
I am not proud of the color of my skin. (Which, by the way, isn’t white. If your skin is white, you have a serious medical problem. Based on the Sherwin Williams color palate, my skin, depending on the season, fluctuates between Glazed Pears, Almond Brittle, and Golden Ecru).
My skin is the color it is. Just like my eye color, and my height. I didn’t choose those things and can’t control them. Being proud of any of those things would be foolish. Thinking that any of those genetic variables made me superior to someone else would make me at least arrogant and delusional if not outright evil.
I’m not proud to be an American either. I was born in the United States, just like my parents and their parents were. This doesn’t make me better than someone born in another country. It does mean, according to the law, that I am an American citizen. In my case, that is nothing to be proud of. It just is. I had nothing to do with that. Now, I have many friends who were born in other countries and chose to become Americans. For them to become Americans, they had to apply for citizenship, wait for months, pay a large fee, and take a test! They should be (and are) proud that they became an American!
In my case, I’m not proud to be an American. I am thankful that I’m an American. The United States isn’t perfect, but it is a great nation. It’s the freest, most prosperous, and most giving nation in the world. Even the poorest Americans have a far better lifestyle than millions of people in many other countries. I am sooooo thankful that I was born here, but I’m not proud of it.
It may not sound like much of a difference, but it is. If you are proud of your nationality, it is a simple thing to slip into feeling superior to people born elsewhere. If you are proud of your skin color, you are an inch away from feeling superior to people whose skin color is different. Racism, xenophobia, and sexism all start with people feeling the way they were born makes them better than the way others were born. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.
Being proud of things you had nothing to do with and can’t change makes you more sensitive to criticism; more likely to take offense. It keeps you focused on the past, the one thing no one can change. Pride in your achievements and how far you’ve come on your personal journey lends itself to a future focus. Success breeds more success, and over time you build strength and resilience.
So, I recommend you steer your pride toward good decisions you’ve made, character traits you’ve developed, and things you’ve accomplished. Be proud of that stuff.
I’m proud, for example, of the skills I have developed over time with hard work and determination. I’m proud to have started and grown several businesses. I am proud of my relationships, many of which have taken a lot of work from both parties! I am proud of my parents for keeping their marriage intact for over 50 years. I’m proud of my wife when she repeatedly puts others before herself. I’m proud that she and I have found ways to make a difference in the lives of others and have pursued that path through many setbacks and obstacles. I am proud of my kids when they show courage, or kindness, or grit, or work hard in the pursuit of a goal.
These are the kind of things I recommend you take pride in, because that kind of pride is rooted in character and good behavior, and leads to the further development of both.
So, it’s ok if you love America. I do, too. A lot. But, mostly I recommend being grateful that you live in such a great country. I know a lot of “proud” people who are deeply unhappy. It’s been my experience, however, that gratitude and happiness always go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin.
In these times when kneeling has become so popular, maybe it would be worth a few minutes to take a knee and thank God for your blessings. Then get up and start working hard for a life you can be proud of.
If you do, I’ll be proud of you too.