Living the Sweet Life: A Continued Study of Aristotle’s Virtues, the Seventh of Which is Pride

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and

This year marks my 15th anniversary writing my column Living the Sweet Life. This year also marks my 50th birthday. As a way of reflection and remembrance, this year’s Sweet Life will be a continuous study of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues and how they are applied to my life.

My friends, as we continue our studies of Aristotle’s virtues this month, we take a closer look at pride. In my opinion, and understanding of this virtue, it is clear that throughout history pride has been viewed with somewhat of a mixed bag. To be prideful of oneself is such a delicate dance as too much of it can lead to an inflated and fictitious view of oneself and having too little squashes one’s potential for leading a beautiful life. As with so many of Aristotle’s virtues, they are all necessary in moderation and create problems in excess.

Nana’s Daddy Compton Barham, Alisa’s Great Grandfather.

When you have too much pride, you are inclined to be vain and have what my late father-in-law regarded as “illusions of grandeur.” He would often label those he thought to be overtly prideful as having a “mental illness.” Stemming from a stout Christian faith, he was taught that pride was one of the seven deadly sins and to be avoided. Afterall, Lucifer befell to its lure and that is how he got kicked out of heaven into hell! In Psychology Today, Dr. Neel Burton explains: “Pride is the sin most hated by God because it bears all the other sins, blinds us to truth and reason, and removes us from God and his religion.” Pride then is, at its most, its worst.   

Pride, though in moderation, is indeed a necessary and good thing to have when defined by acceptance of oneself and recognition of what one can and should make of themself. You should regard yourself in high esteem and expect great things from yourself. To do otherwise is a wasted life. Likewise, we all need to and should have pride in the things we we succeed in. Excellence is a good thing, which brings me to my life and reflection of accomplishments through these virtues that we have been studying.

Alisa Murray
with her bountiful harvest from her garden.

As a general rule, I would not regard myself as an avid gardener nor a chef; however, in these times, I have pivoted and rapidly overcome learning curves in these areas. I planted things in the past that did and sometimes did not bear fruit, just as I have made dishes and been given woeful stares from a collection of eyeballs at my table all saying the same thing – this really sucks –  without uttering a word. But alas, these days, I have mastered those domestic things that for most of my adult life, I regarded as unimportant. The task of delivering a never-ending stream of delicious meals has not been a “thing” most of my adult/married life. Nor and greater an accomplishment, I would argue, has it been important to plant seeds, tend daily and produce the very things that sustain us . . . until now. Having nothing else to do and a busy mind, I set about to it and planted “stuff.” I cooked “stuff.” And then, something really amazing happened. The dishes started tasting like the restaurants that we could no longer go to. Yep, that’s what the family said of my shrimp brochettes and filet mignons!  Don’t worry –  I could not believe it either!

But perhaps the thing in all of this that I am most prideful is my garden. Each day it requires my full attention and care, and in giving it what it needs, it returns the favor by delivering up sustainability for my family in a time where everything else has seemed to have gone sideways. Even still as I walk through the tomatoes and survey the corn, I am hearing and sensing a calmness that has not overtaken me in a very long while. My great grandparents did this very thing. Sometimes when I am there, I can almost hear them cheering me on!  Almost in an instinctual trance, I plant the seeds. Four show up and three do not. I water and tend, and while some grow, others do not. I care for them, teach them through trellis and love through protection of pests and storms and pray that one day they will bear fruit. Some do; others do not. This reminds me of humanity and makes me think a lot about what God must think of us as his creation. Sometimes the very correlation of my garden and what life truly is overwhelms my soul. We are all creators in God’s Garden, and if we all would just tend to each other a little better, more of us would grow!

Take Care of YOU

and Each Other!