Forgive me if, once again, I get a little personal.
A few months ago I noticed my behavior had changed. I first noticed it in my online interactions. I was getting into debates more, and being less sensitive to others when I should have been more delicate with their feelings. I kept getting upset at people who were, well, “wrong.”
Finally, after one particularly bad day not long after I abandoned imgur, I also called it quits on reddit and pared down my facebook interactions. I knew I was repeatedly crossing the lines of civility and I didn’t know why, but I felt it was safe to assume that these digital interactions were simply having a bad effect on me. Usually, taking a couple days away from online media helps me re-center and come back better than ever, so I felt that an extended break would be ideal for improving my behavior online.
Last night, though, I sent an email to a professional with whom I had been working. To my surprise he was obviously upset, and his partner called up my partners and had a telephone “war” about my behavior.
I looked back at my email and, sure enough, it was pretty brutal. And what was worse, I recognized much of the same language that used to offend me so badly when I was the one in the role of hired contractor.
I was mad at myself. I thought that the corrupting influence of negative online spaces had been eliminated. Why, then, was I still behaving like I had just had a multi-day debate with an internet troll?
What happened to nice me?
I realized that the only other change in my life that corresponds with the changes in my behavior is the new job I have where I work with some high-powered, successful entrepreneurs. I now interact with them on a daily basis and have lengthy meetings each week. In those meetings these guys often talk about how they’re going to teach me to be more “aggressive” and how to think bigger than I have been.
And it’s been good, I think. Or thought. I mean, business-wise, we’re more successful than we’ve been ever before. And I’m really enjoying embracing my new, more assertive self.
But now I’m starting to see the negatives. What surprises me the most (so far) is how much easier it has been to invite prideful ideas into my thinking.
Scary Pride, Friendly Pride
A year ago, if I had been online having a discussion about the church, I would sometimes (often) get into debates about a certain point of doctrine, history, etc. However, I could easily recognize that feeling that always came when things had gone too far. That anger. That feeling of self-righteousness.
(also, as a side note, there’s a facial expression that goes along with it. It’s raised eyebrows. Watch somebody the next time they’re “correcting” an egregious error. Eyebrows up.)
Anyway, when I felt that feeling I committed to shut down the discussion. I would just walk away. I felt that it was better to avoid contention than to “win.” In that way I hoped I was combating pride. I believe I was.
That was the scary pride. The kind of pride that you can feel because anger’s umbilical cord is still attached. Once it’s identified it’s easy to curtail.
But now I’m experiencing something else. I find myself in a position of some authority. And you know what happens when people get authority, right?
What was most surprising is that I didn’t notice it happening at all. I didn’t feel it. The only hints were in how people around me started reacting. I never felt the anger that came with self-righteous debate. I never felt the raised eyebrows of “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
The poison of pride has been undetectable to me so far. But it explains everything. The anger, the ‘superiority’ language, the abrupt communication. Yes, I’ve been training myself to be more assertive, but, in gaining more power and authority, I’ve also awakened a weakness I never realized was in me: eliminating kindness and compassion for the sake of being “right.”
I’m really amazed at how easy it has been to be more mean. How there’s no warning. How you actually feel better about yourself even as you become slightly worse as a person.
I’m starting to understand why President Benson said “Pride is the universal sin, the great vice.”
I’m going to work on this. I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to be kind, and to make serving others my top priority. I’ll keep you all updated.
In the mean time, I’ll try to have more gospel related posts here soon.