The Shameless Nature Of Pride

As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.

I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much.

The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride. 

We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there.

We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos. 

As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing. 

The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly. 

4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.

And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.

Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person.

Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well.

Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.


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47 thoughts on “The Shameless Nature Of Pride

    1. Yes I agree. The way so many people have been lied to and manipulated makes it easier for me to forgive his supporters. But to forgive Trump and his team… I’m sure I have it in me. Maybe somethings are meant to be hated? Is that too strong? There’s so much out there about the need for ‘universal’ compassion – but I must admit I struggle with it when it comes to people like Trump. Thanks for stopping by – wishing you well 🙏

      1. It appears Trump is setting up to run for President in 2024. If the main stream news continue as they did to get ratings, then it will continue with more of the same.

        To me, Trump is a dangerous psychopath and anti everything that does not boost his ego!

      2. Yes. Trump is for Trump and not much else. The media certainly need to take more responsibility for protecting joe public from blatant disinformation campaigns. The social media giants need to be held accountable for what they allow on their channels as well. For me a warning label that states the following information is unsubstantiated or something to that effect makes good sense. We have to protect the freedom of speech but we also need to protect others from the harmful effects of rampant lying and smear campaigns. A bit like smoking cigarettes. You’re free to do so but it should come with a warning label. Thanks for your comments. Wishing you well 🙏

  1. AP, Trump is a madman, who, like Hitler, has inspired loyalty by echoing and magnifying people’s racism and prejudices. He has the support of many wealthy people because he has given them huge tax breaks. Senators and congressmen are afraid that if they don’t support him, they will not win reelection. Trump has damaged our institutions and environment, has caused many deaths by mishandling the pandemic, and has brought division and hatred.

    The sun is setting on Donald Trump. Biden will have many challenges facing him, but his message of unity is the right message, and he is the right man for the job! Kamala Harris also inspires confidence. They are a good team.

    I believe your children will grow up in a better world. The Pandemic will not last forever! The economy will recover! I know just a little about British politics, so I won’t try to comment on that, except to say that I hope that goodwill returns to you as well. All the best, AP. <3

    1. Thanks Cheryl – I share your optimism but I am cautious all the same. The system is problematic in my eyes. Hopefully Biden and Harris will be able to make positive changes despite efforts to subvert them. You’re right though – we need to embrace our future – not live in fear of it. That said we also need to face the very real problems in front of us first. Thank you for being the eternal optimist Cheryl. You have put a smile on my face yet again. That dangerous sense of hope is building in me again. All the best to you too 🙏

  2. One of the things I admire about Malcolm X is that after he returned from Mecca he basically said, “I’ve met some new people, had some new experiences, learned some new things, and I’ve changed my mind.”

    That’s so rare! Most of us will go to our graves twisting logic and reality to prove that we’re right, even when we’re not.

    I think any progress we’re going to make, not just as Americans but as a species, has to start with the idea that maybe we’re wrong.

    1. You’re spot on. I tend to think if you believe what you did a year ago then you have’t grown as a person. We should always be challenging our beliefs and preconceptions – because they will always be, on some level, wrong (if not entirely). Black and white thinking is dangerous in my eyes. There is only grey. I think we should all work on changing our mindset from one where we feel we have to be right, to one where we simply try to be a little less wrong than we were yesterday. Speaking of Malcom X he also said this –

      “You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it.”

      Thanks for your valuable comments Abbie – wishing you well 🙏

  3. I’m not ready to tell my story because I am still living it (The Story of 2020,) but I really enjoyed this post and I hope that you and yours are well in spite of everything that’s kept you down lately. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your kind wishes friend. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think we are all looking forward to the story of 2020 being just that – a story! Wishing you and yours the strength to see it through as well. 🙏

  4. I feel that the divisions between us are a greater threat than the problems we face. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Nothing can be resolved if we are two camps glaring at each other across no man’s land, yet neither side is going away.

    1. It’s certainly a massive issue. When both parties can’t even agree on what reality is… Neither side is going away but I wonder if we can introduce more sides? I dislike the two party system because it forces a black and white choice. That has divided the country down the middle. We need more diversity in politics. More choice. That way more sides will have to come to a compromise for the greater good. And less people will feel they have to sacrifice their integrity for a party or a leader they don’t really believe in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

  5. I was so happy for America when Biden won. While it doesn’t mean the issues are over, it’s a step towards progression. He’s already discussing how to handle the pandemic so hopefully it will be managed soon. Hang in there!

    1. Indeed it is. And it’s important to remember that progress is never a straight line – those were Obama’s parting words when he left office. I’ve taken great solace in them over the last 4 years or so. Thank you for your words or encouragement. 🙏

  6. It is beyond my understanding what just happened: The sitting president demonising the very core of democracy. But even shocking is the senior republicans are yet to acknowledge Biden as the next president elect. Somehow it may be that we accepted that Trump is stupid (less offensive way to describe him) but the rest of them —is utterly shameful.

    The more I look at it, it may be pride or a new agenda that few years down the line, we will have more far-right world leaders.

    1. I heard a quote on a podcast that summed it up perfectly. “What we have now is a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, spearheaded by a network without integrity.” It’s that trifecta that’s particularly dangerous. The fact that those within the Republican Party are prepared to put Trump ahead of our very democracy says something.

      On a more positive note – I’m of the opinion that the right wing direction of global politics we have seen in the past 4 years ago is a reaction to a more broad left wing movement happening among the youth. Biden had a far higher percentage of support among the young which reflects that. Those is power are resisting changes that are both necessary and inevitable in my eyes. Sadly their resistance is making it harder for everyone.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

  7. I absolutely agree and love this post! I share the same sentiment. I, too broke down multiple times the day it was announced the Biden had won. I can only hope things can move forward in the right direction! It’s really unfortunate how tr*mp is only making the transition more difficult. I hope the 70 million Americans can one day wake up and realize though!

    Thanks for this post!

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you liked the post. What Trump is doing is extremely reckless and has – frankly – all the hallmarks of a dictator. That more people don’t see it is extremely sad. I think we need to work out why that is if we are to change that. Clearly 4 years of rampant disinformation and smear campaigns work. Protecting the freedom of speech means protecting the right to lie your ass off. But to protect those people from the repercussions of those lies!? We need to do more to protect others from the sordid dark corners of the internet. Certain media outlets and social media giants need to act with far greater integrity and be held accountable for the information they share/allow to be shared. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish you well 🙏

  8. I like Brene Brown’s take on shame, and her discussions on the differences between shame and guilt. I think she says pride is correlated with shame, and I can definitely agree. This is a great post, thanks for sharing and you’re not alone 😊

    1. Thanks Kellie. I’m glad you enjoyed. Shame is hard. It makes sense that we try to avoid it. And sometimes we should be proud of the things society tries to make us feel bad about. ie. As a man – the idea that I shouldn’t cry or be in touch with my emotions. That messed me up good! But far too often we use pride to avoid shame we need to feel. When we know we haven’t lived up to our own values or moral code. We could do far more to commend those who open up and admit they’ve done wrong or made a mistake in our society. For those who changed their vote this time around, who admit they made a mistake 4 years ago – I’m extremely grateful. That shows a lot of courage and should be applauded. Making a mistake is less important than learning from it. Thanks Kellie. I’ve read Brene Brown’s book – daring greatly and found it to be very insightful as well. Wishing you well 🙏

  9. AP2, yeah, the election has been quite the ride and shame hiding behind pride is… hard to navigate to say the least ☺️. But to want something better isn’t uncommon, it’s human really. Nothing is ever perfect and least of all 2020, covid has shown suffering of all people, whether they were affected directly or indirectly. But we’re so close to finishing off 2020, I myself have been revisiting my past and it’s hard to think that we can even move on from so much pain that had happened. And yet we do, and I can’t blame anyone for it, I get it. Ignoring all the bad is easier than facing it head on, but doing what you do is incredibly brave, to be able to admit to that shame. Do not apologize for something that society has taught us, to hide from and be ashamed of. Shame clears the fog sometimes, it shows us truth when we least want to see it. It’s easy to hide, but I’m glad you’re learning to come to terms with it. As for you’re question, I’ve avoided reality too many times, and for much too long, I’m really just living in the middle ground, trying to learn that I cannot fix everyone and everything.
    2020 will be over soon, this pandemic will eventually come to an end, your children will get a world that’s seen a lot, but they’ll learn to care for it.
    There’s always something to strive towards. Thank you. 💕

    1. Thank you so much Janelle. I always value you what you have to say. Shame breaks down the parts of ourselves that need to be. We just need to be clear that we are feeling shame for the right reasons. ie when we haven’t lived up to our own values and expectations. Not when society tells we should feel shame for things like not having the perfect body… The reason I apologised was more for the sake of forgiving the other side. To drop my own pride – this idea that I’m better than them. I think the best way to forgive someone is to say you’re sorry first. No one is perfect and we always have things we could have done better/differently. Provided we make amends. Provided we learn. That’s the most important thing. We must forgive otherwise we will never mend the bridges that need to be. Always strive for better. Forget being perfect – that’s a fantasy. That’s a motto I try to live by. Wishing you well 🙏

      1. I’m so sorry, I should’ve clarified, shame used to discriminate and outcast people is a definite no-go. And building ourselves to ‘be better’ and not ‘the best’ is a very good way to live your life, I’m sure there are people out there who strive for perfection because they don’t realize each goal they reach is a step forward, not ‘no progress’. Forgiveness can be just as important as apologizing, we just have to learn when to do both.
        Take care 💕

  10. “I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters”.

    Beautiful words. 🙂

  11. I know your feelings and dilema as being similar to my own.
    I too watched as Brexit happened, hoping that we would choose to embrace each other rather than lash out and curl into ourselves. I guess the main difference is that I wasn’t surprised, nor do I feel more fearful of saying what I feel.
    I think the difference may be that my first reaction wasn’t to anger or ask how to forgive. I can see how others thought – they were scared because the money and the jobs had gone; because there were new rules that they didn’t try to understand because they feared losing their freedom; because the world had changed and they couldn’t understand. And there. like a beacon of hope, was someone saying, “it’s this groups fault. Remove them and all your troubles are over.”
    I’m angry because they chose not to take responsibility for what happens because of that – that they can just say, “We’ve done our bit, now make our lives better.” – but that’s because they won’t learn by doing that.

    But most people aren’t evil forces to be angry at or to be forgiven – that’s the easy option where we don’t have to do the hard work of making things better but can go home and pat ourselves on the back. It’s also a way of ignoring the problem instead of taking responsibility and trying to fix it before it can resurface again.
    We’re mostly doing what seems best for our loved ones and those close to us. So what makes people so desperate that they don’t look at what they’re doing and so ready for an easy answer that they blame someone else rather than face the problems that afflict their lives?

    I can’t say so strongly about the US election because I’ve not been on the ground and seen what’s happened but, from a distance, it feels the same.
    And I think giving your children the strength to reach out and care is one of the strongest, best ways to make tomorrow better that I can think of.

    1. I should add that, no, I’m not saying that racism and prejudice, anger and hate are right, because they aren’t – they’re destructive, have hurt generations and communities and, frankly, have made everyone’s lives lesser, whether they were victims suffering the worst in pain, hardship and even death or the good inside the perpetrators which, step by step, got torn away until they’re just bad through and through.
      I’m saying that the hard bit is stopping the conditions which make ordinary people become that way.

      And, yes, I’m trying to learn to listen to my mistakes just as much because it could be so easy to just blame the rest of the world instead of changing me.

      1. I echo your sentiments. I think ultimately as individuals we have to be the change that we wish to see. We have to clean up our own doorstep first. That’s the best way any one of us can change the world. We can’t control others but we can work on controlling ourselves. Giving up blaming and complaining is a great place to start. Thanks for sharing your thoughts friends. I wish you well 🙏

  12. I totally agree with your sentiment. It’s not just in the US it seems populist politics have taken a hold across the world. People seem to have lost perspective on our 20th century history, now more than ever we need to unite to combat COVID-19, Climate change and third world poverty which is causing mass population movement. Well written.

    1. Thank you Mario. It seems we have lost perspective on many things – our history just one. You’re not wrong though – the parallels between Hitler and Trump are frightening. Not to mention other populists elsewhere. We certainly have a job to do. I believe all of us need to speak up and fight for what is right and for our future. Too many of us have sat in silence for too long. Myself included. It’s time for all of us to get off the sidelines. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Biden is at least a start. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  13. Thanks for this extraordinarily honest piece! As someone who has spent his entire professional career assisting people become better critical thinkers, I’m most upset by Trump and his ilk’s elevation of irrationality over reason. We don’t talk enough about the need for leaders to be educators. I’d say that the greatest responsibility any leader has is to teach the masses how to understand the world they inhabit. We think leadershis is all about demonstrating bravery and such, but real leadership is about helping move people to do the right thing. And this is accomplished by informing them, by helping them understand that we are all part of one human family. And that individual self-interest is necessarily inextricably connected to the common good.

    1. Thank you Troy. Honesty is a value I hold close to my heart. I’ve not thought of leaders as educators before but it makes perfect sense. The very idea of what society thinks is strong and brave is part of the problem in my eyes. We seem to have found ourselves with many world leaders lacking in empathy as a result. Men who are afraid of their own emotions are not the kind of leaders we need. Your point about self interest resonates. That’s what I would call intelligent self interest. Where you understand that what helps others ultimately helps you as well.

  14. AP2, thank you for this piece. There so many beautiful and painful truths throughout. America has a lot of work to do. And unfortunately, I think our obsession with capitalism plays right into the abhorrent behaviors we see from so many, including Trump himself. As Troy pointed out, education—true critical consciousness—is key to evolving into a more humane society. As a teacher, parent, and US citizen, I will continue to plant seeds of love. I will continue to hope.🕊

    1. Thank you snapdragon. The last 4 years have been a real wakeup call. Biden is thankfully a significant and necessary step in the right direction. And hopefully Trump will be a lesson to the younger generation about why his like must never be allowed to rule again. Our desire to keep accumulating – where we elect leaders purely based on short term economy and driving numbers for big business is clearly an issue. We need to redefine what success means. We need to embrace the changes our future needs for the sake of our children. Keep planting them seeds! Teaching them how to think instead of what to think is definitely key. I look at our increasingly united youth and see them fighting for these changes already. This gives me a lot of hope for the future. Wishing you well 🙏

  15. I hear you and I understand your disappointment with society. I believe the points you made about shame and pride are so valid. No one wants to feel shame; however, as you suggested, it’s needed to balance pride. I don’t know what will happen next between Biden, Trump, and Trump supporters. I’m hopeful that we will find common ground. It’s so important that people know what affects one affects all. We are in this together whether they like it or not.

    1. Well said Shaun and thank you. You’re right – we are in this together. It’s so important to remember that what benefits others benefits ourselves. We need to start thinking as a collective and smash the labels we use to define ourselves. We are all humans before anything else. Wishing you well 🙏

  16. I wrote a post a few months back tootled “Shedding our entitlement”. We each have situations where we think we know better than others and want to voice this. Finding the right way to do it is difficult. Just as realising where we need to change ourself us difficult.

    Kia kaha, my friend. Prayers for you and your family. ♥

    1. Thanks Hamish – indeed it is. Ultimately we can’t force other people to change – our attempts to do so can make things worse. “Be the change you want to see” – I strongly believe this is the best way to influence others. Prayers to you and yours too 🙏

    1. Usually I don’t make a habit of hoping for things out of my control – like election results – but I couldn’t help myself this time. I felt this one simply mattered too much. This didn’t do my mental health any good in the run up of course, but it sure felt good when he was confirmed president elect. Thank you for sharing your experience. 🙏

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