How The Seven Deadly Sins Can Help You Write Emotion: PRIDE
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
― Jane Austen
This week’s emotion: PRIDE, and its counterpoint, humility.
Some people like to call this “vanity,” but I prefer “pride.” “Pride”is so much more fitting. This sin is not simply about vanity alone—it encompasses all forms of pride, and all of the strange and destructive forms that pride takes.
Pride is often called the “sin of sins” because it is the root of all other sins, and the most destructive of the seven.
Pride is a powerful emotion. It can drive us to do strange and insane things. Pride ties in to more than what we want—it ties in to who we are. We feel prideful when our identity, our ego, is challenged in some way. Pride is a proving emotion—it’s what pushes us to try and establish that we can, we have, we are.
Your characters can be prideful about anything and everything. Pride is kind of an elegant flaw—it doesn’t have to be, but it often is. It’s found in those with high intellects and refined tastes, those with broad horizons and lofty ambitions. They can win this, beat this, conquer this, achieve this, have this, whatever “this” is. Different from greed or envy or lust, though, because pride is not about the thing their attaining or taking or conquering—it’s about what that thing represents to them.
Does your character want to prove that they’re the best athlete? Or the most desirable of their group? Do they want to make the most money, know the most facts, or visit the most places? Whatever the thing they’re prideful about—be it getting a promotion or getting a specific love interest—remember that while it can look like one of the other Seven Deadly Sins, it’s rooted in something much deeper, and therefore it is much, much more potent.
The counterpoint pride, you have humility. This characteristic is often found in people who are older, and wiser, but it can also be someone who is young but wise beyond their years. Humility is never born of someone meek and afraid, though—it takes confidence to be truly humble. It takes strength. Usually, there was a time in this person’s life when they were immensely prideful. Conquering that pride has healed them, and taught them a lot, and they can see themselves so clearly in the prideful character’s need to prove himself or herself.
Proud characters are fun because they are so, so driven. They never give up. This is obsession taken to the max, and it is fantastic for your books.
Of course, if your prideful character gets hit too hard, he or she might snap, sinking into a depression, temporarily losing their will to pursue their goals. They are proud, after all, and pride is deeply damaged by failure or loss—a blow that someone with this characteristic might not be able to withstand.
It’s also one of those faults that’s a fantastic hurdle to jump. There’s a tried and true character arc—the prideful (usually young) protagonist, rises to great heights, and then is struck down in the most humiliating way. At their lowest point, a teacher comes to guide them out of the darkness, and from this defeat, the protagonist learns many lessons. Their pride evolves into humility—they might still be a proud person, but they understand failure, too, and that understanding gives them increased strength. Renewed, and wiser, they return to claim a victory. Sometimes, even if they never achieve that original goal, they get something else out of the arrangement. Think Rolling Stones: They don’t have to get what they want, so long as they get what they need.
Pride can make you or break you. It can raise you to incredible heights or leave you broken and at your lowest point.
But damn, does it ever make for a good story.
Remember: As with all the others, this is an emotion we’re all at least a little familiar with. All your readers can relate to a time when their pride was wounded, or can revel in the injured pride of an antagonist. It’s a great tool for connecting with your audience and drawing out a very real, very human response to what your characters are going through. And that, after all, is why we write.
Who’s your most prideful character? How does that pride manifest in them? Tell us in the comments!