Good Pride, Bad Pride - How to Tell the Difference?
It is common for Vietnamese people to be prideful. To be proud of our accomplishments, degrees, children, money, and material things. What I notice are the flaws in our pride when they are misplaced.
So how do we go about distinguishing Good Pride from Bad Pride?
Here is my simple break-down:
Good Pride Examples:
You worked hard towards a goal and accomplished your goals.
Using pride to maintain a certain standard in the things you do.
You are proud of who you have become.
Bad Pride Examples:
Letting you or your family/friends suffer because you do not want the help.
Using pride to put others down.
Measuring our achievements against someone else vs. our own previous performances.
In this story, I'd like to explore what I consider Bad Pride.
Recently, I received an invitation to a wedding from an acquaintance. I was not able to attend due to a scheduled trip, but I sent a monetary gift to the happy couple.
I received a text gracefully and humbly declining the gift as it was considered "too much." I am not sure how one measures "too generous." Is it based on the level of friendship? Is it based on the fact I did not attend the wedding? Is it based on the cost of the dinner which I did not eat? Is it measured against gifts from other guests? Is is based on their income? Is it based on my income? I am perplexed as to what is considered too much and what ruler does one use to measure the appropriate amount?
In the Vietnamese culture, there are some customary, magical numbers that are considered too little or too much based on relationships. I've watched people fight and be judged over the amount if it's considered too little or too much. I've seen friendships ruined because the parents' friends did not give enough. If they gave too much, then it's considered rude! "We're not a charity case!" The parents would exclaim. I've seen people go into debt in order to not appear "cheap."
We need a Wedding Etiquette book just for the Vietnamese!
I was not offended by her declining my gift... I was mostly sad to see misplaced pride in someone so young. I replied to her note saying something to the effect of "Sometimes, the universe sends us gifts. We must learn to accept them. Just like the ebb and flow of ocean waves, what goes out must come back in, one cannot exist without the other." I know, I must have sounded like Confucius.
I was happy to see my note made the bride feel better as she happily accepted my gift while acknowledging that at times, she may have put her life at a disadvantage by not seeing things the way I described. Mostly, I hope my words have planted a new seed in her thinking about misplaced pride.
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Trami Nguyen Cron