Human pride is a funny thing. It's something that every living being tries to hold on to, yet it's the very thing that tears the world in which we live apart. People are too proud to be criticized or put down, and so they retaliate or try to redeem themselves. If an ego feels threatened, the logical, proud step is to start a war. Whether or not the war is on a personal or international level is irrelevant. Suddenly, it's no longer about who is right or wrong but only who is better. When boiled down, it's actually dreadfully juvenile. Once a child develops a sense of pride, that is the start of their loss of innocence.
My pride developed in the second grade. At eight years old, I was reading and writing at twice the rate of most of my classmates. There was only one boy who was my caliber. The two of us actually started a book club in which we competed to see who could read the most pages every week. We played math games on the computer against one another, and typing games. I took these challenges very seriously, as though he were challenging my very being and not just the speed at which I typed or evaluated addition problems. As I improved and pulled ahead of my competition, my ego inflated. I bragged and boasted and was quite frankly a horror to be around when in battle-mode.
I also found myself becoming quite attached to my rival. He was smart, cute and athletic. What more could I ask for? I knew that if I continued to vie with him in the arrogant fashion I had developed, that I would have no chance of ever even being friends with him, much less anything more.
So each and every day I arrived at school with the mindset of not competing with him any more, and I always failed to do so, and so my only success was in escalating the competition to a new level. Soon, we had the entire class crowded around our two computers watching us compete for our pride. I had no idea how it happened, but it did. There was a new math game where we could actually play against each other, instead of just comparing scores and times and speeds as we normally did, and it was brutal. Our faces were set in grotesque expressions of total concentration, and our fingers hovering over the keyboards were curled like a vulture's talons. In between each problem we would throw intimidating glances at one another, every so often throwing in a growl or confident taunt.
We were neck and neck, keyed up classmates cheering us on at our backs. My fingers flew across the keyboard at a solid 45 words-per-minute (which was quite impressive for the second grade), typing in the answers as fast I came up with them. There was only thirty seconds left in the game when my mind reminded me that if I didn't lay off now, I might never have an opportunity with him again. I pushed the thought away, but it bounced right back, telling me to let him win, that victory wasn't worth it. I knew I was right, but I couldn't find it in me to let myself lose. I slowed down slightly, torn between my pride and his friendship, but it wasn't enough. I had already won.
Conceit, arrogance, pride; they eat away at the heart and soul, leaving decay and loneliness in their wake. Sometimes it's much more difficult to give up than to continue on.