Pride vs. humility in sports

Suppose we could measure pride and humility in athletes today. Which trait would come out ahead? Would it even be close?

I’m surprised some athletes (or politicians, for that matter) haven’t written a book titled “The 10 most humble people, and how I met the other nine.” Or, “Humility and how I attained it.”

By definition, humility means meek, deferential, respectful, submissive, unassuming.

Go ahead and search the Bible to see if there is wiggle room, but the phrases used to describe the proud are powerful.

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace.

Where there is strife, there is pride.

The Lord detests all the proud of heart.

Pride goes before destruction.

The proud behaves with insolent fury.

In his pride, the wicked man does not seek God.

His heart became arrogant and hardened with pride.

A writer for the Athletes in Action website says there are some paradigm shifts we need to consider.

The proud athlete says, “I failed; I’m horrible!” The humble athlete says, “I can’t do that skill yet; I’m still learning.”

The proud athlete says, “It’s all about me.” The humble athlete says, “It’s all about others, team, you, God.”

The proud athlete says, “I don’t really care what you think!” The humble athlete says, “I am sorry; I was wrong; will you forgive me?”

The proud athlete says, “I already know!” The humble athlete says, “I’m listening; teach me.”

The proud athlete says, “I don’t need anybody.” The humble athlete says, “I need you, my teammates, God.”

Of course, pride is a basic emotion observed universally in human beings. An article in “The Sport Journal” says children exhibit recognizable signs of pride by the age of 2-1/2 years and are able to recognize physical expressions of pride in others by age 4.

Pride isn’t all bad, of course. It can describe the satisfaction achieved through the completion of a task to the best of one’s ability.

Some notable professional athletes point out that individuals should work to the best of their ability and take pride in their efforts.

But it’s evident that pride often becomes problematic in sports and in life.

Dr. Steven Aicinena wrote, “Many who find success in sport are seduced by the calling of hubris. They grow to feel that they are special; that they are more important than others, and that they are entitled to have what they want and to act as they please. Actions taken as the consequence of hubristic pride held by coaches, athletes and parents often impact others negatively.

“Hubristic, glory-seeking coaches are found in youth leagues, high schools and colleges. They feel as though they are above having to adhere to rules and regulations. Operating rules, they believe, are for everyone else to follow. In a sense, the hubristic do not believe they are cheating. They are simply doing what the timid and uncommitted will not do to achieve success,” Aicinena said.

More often than not, pride will dominate humility in sports, but Aicinena says, “If sport is to prepare individuals to work and to live in harmony with one another, hubris must be eliminated from the competitive milieu. Athletic administrators, coaches, athletes and parents must be vigilant for traces of hubristic behavior and sanction it quickly and effectively. In doing so, the spread of hubristic behavior through sport may be lessened.”

The fact is, all of us are quicker to see pride in others than ourselves. It’s easier to fixate on the mistakes and sins of others than in ourselves.

We can all plead guilty to some extent when it comes to pride. Perhaps you, like me, have said, “I’ve looked at my opinion and found it to be good.”

Heaven help us all.