An overlooked emotion

There’s one emotion that gets a bad rap.

Before I tell you what it is, I’d like to share with you an experience from my junior year in high school. I wasn’t the most popular guy in my high school class, but I was industrious. When it came time to run for junior class president, only two people ran. “Why,” you might ask, “were so few people interested in leading a class of 232 kids at my public high school?”

Times up!

Every year, the junior class was charged with planning and paying for the Senior Prom and, simply put, we had no money! As the prospect of canceling Prom for the first time in school history hung over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, few of us dared to be held in a position of leadership when such a debacle came to pass.

That’s where I came in.

After having won the election, with a little help from my “campaign manager,” to whom I STILL owe lunch for her efforts (no worries; she lives in Europe), it was time to brainstorm a way – somehow – to create a financial windfall for my class. Only one person could stand in my way, Mr. Clinton Bostick, the school principal.

I had a plan…

Back in the days before computers, one of Dayton, Ohio’s busiest department stores, Rike’s Downtown, closed up for a week to perform a comprehensive recording of its inventory. Painstakingly, by hand, every single item in the store, filling multiple floors, needed to be counted and recorded by style number! They needed help, and lots of it.

So I explained the Prom predicament to Mr. Bostick, and asked him if numerous students in my class would be permitted to miss a day of school to travel downtown to count socks, sweaters, and underwear. “Yes,” he said – and thus the project began. I calculated how many hours we would we to compile at a low wage, contacted Rike’s to offer our services, and delighted in hearing a resounding “yes” once again.

Since inventory was counted for tax purposes, it always started in early January, after the Christmas season. Christmas vacation was generally a sacred time for this 16-year-old kid who loved to hang out with friends and otherwise waste time. This year had to be different.

I spent every single day of my two-week break compiling a schedule of students to go counting, shift by shift. Not only that, I create a “back-up” schedule to cover the inevitable no-show student, so that we didn’t disappoint the folks at Rike’s, and worse, lose out on much-needed cash. Problem was, I didn’t know lots of kids in my class, and didn’t have all their phone numbers. Tracking down their phone numbers over Christmas break was, itself, a project. Finally, after two weeks of phone calls, dozens and dozens of them, the inventory schedule, and backup schedule, were complete.

Let the counting begin!

A few weeks after this was all over, well before the time of our May Prom, a letter arrived at my house, addressed from Rike’s. The check – a very large check by 1980 standards – was in my hands. Not only did we have enough money for Prom, we had plenty of money left over. We were now the “wealthiest” class in the history of our school!

As much as I hated giving up my vacation to make these phone calls, I came into contact, in a big way, with a feeling of accomplishment, of intense satisfaction, of Pride.

Many times I’ve heard of pride spoken of in negative terms. Pride is often viewed as something undesirable. People with pride are considered bigheaded, full of hubris. At its worst, having pride is considered sinful.

The pride I felt was none of these things. It was simply a delightful sense of satisfaction for a job well done, the proverbial pat on the back.

While it might be true that an unbridled sense of pride can be viewed negatively, the lovely feeling that follows from “a job well done” is a needed, healthy form of self-nurturing and self-love.

Here are some examples besides accomplishing a task: Overcoming an obstacle, enduring physical, spiritual, or emotional pain, performing an act of kindness – anything for which a loving person  in your life might say “I’m so proud of you!”

What do you feel proud about over the course of your life? If you write down five things right now, and every night for a week, without analyzing them at all, you might find a wonderful feeling begin to bubble up inside of you. That, my friend, is the feeling of pride.

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