Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pride and Potential

There's a movie called The Huggabunch that I remember watching when I was a little girl, and recently a friend of mine reminded me of it.  I watched a short segment from it on YouTube, and it was just as creepy as I remembered it being.  The main character at one point meets a witch type woman who stays forever young and "beautiful" by eating some sort of peach that she keeps under lock and key.  The queen (witch) says to the young girl, "You are rather pleasant looking yourself.  ... Say thank you, child."  and the little girl responds by saying, "My mother told me not to say thank you when people tell me I have a pretty face. You're just born with it, and it's all luck." (If you want to watch this clip of the delightful movie yourself, click here.)

Thomas S. Monson in last month's Ensign wrote an article called, "Canaries with Grey on Their Wings."  In it he emphasizes again the importance of reaching our full potential.  This is a recurring theme in our church, we hear about it often.  He says, "To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility."  I think that I can understand how to face trouble with courage - I may not yet be perfectly able to do so, but I understand it in theory.  I can see how meeting disappointment with cheerfulness will work out, and that is often what I try to do already.  The one that really stumps me however, is dealing with triumph with humility.  So, I've been thinking a lot about it.  Reaching our potential, being all we can be, developing our talents and our unique gifts and then at the end of the day being humble about it all.  I have thought about this for so long that I think I am going to have to break this post into segments.  So, bear with me as I explore, and please share any thoughts that you have along the way.

The Main Question: How do we develop talents, strive to reach our full potential and refrain from becoming prideful?

My first thoughts are along the lines of the Huggabunch kid's mom's advice.  There is a big difference between things that happen to us just by chance, or luck, or random genetic encoding, and the things that we work hard to earn and become.  We should never become prideful, obviously, but it seems to me especially silly to become prideful about any unearned advantages we have in life, because what's the point in it?  We had nothing to do with having them.  (Am I being clear?)  That being said, I think it's strange that the mom advised the little girl to never even say thank you.  It seems to me that to say nothing at all is rude, whereas a polite and sincere "thank you" does no harm, as long as you remember not to become prideful about something that you had no control over (a pretty face).

So, how should we respond when someone compliments us on, say, having a pretty face? Do you say "thank you"? Do you ignore the person, as the little girl did at the advice of her mother?* Do you have some other response?  How do you keep pride in check on receiving compliments like these?

Next I will be discussing compliments in general, and their merits.  The time after that I will be exploring how to distinguish our gifts and talents that we should pursue developing.  And I will wrap it all up by revealing the reasons I am terrified of my own potential.  Yeah, you'll want to tune in for that one, for sure.

*The mother was not present at the time of this interaction, and I wonder if she would have chastised her child for her response, and that there was something the mother would have had the little girl say.  We'll never know.


  1. Oh my gosh! I totally remember that creepy movie!!

    I think that one of the hardest lessons people need to learn is how to accept compliments. Just say "thank you" and move on. So often I compliment a woman, and she has to disagree with me. "Like, oh that was nothing." or "Oh, I don't really look that pretty today." or "I really like Sue's skirt." I really think that more people need to learn how to take a compliment.

    That said though, it is a hard thing to learn. I used to always feel like I had to disagree to be humble.

    But after a while it almost seemed rude, because by disagreeing you're essentially telling them they're wrong.

    So now I just say thank you and move on. I usually compliment the person who complimented me if there is something that I think of right away. No point in giving an insincere compliment.

    I agree that you definitely should not be prideful in things that you have no control over, like a pretty face or hair color.

    I used to always wonder as a teenager how it is possible to be humble but not depressed. How you can have confidence but not be full of yourself.

    What I have tried to focus on over the years is my potential. That no matter how much I have accomplished, I still have so far to go that while I can feel good about my triumphs, I still recognize my shortcomings and see that I have a lot of work to do and yet feel pleased with the work I have done.

    Does that make sense?

    Ugh. Such a creepy movie. I give you no thanks for reminding me of that movie. Haha.

    There were so many creepy movies when we were little!!

  2. Unbelievable. The Hugga Bunch gained a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding visual effects. Haha oh the '80s!

  3. I completely agree with the statement by 'mimihalley' Say thank you and move on. Who knows, maybe pretty faces aren't just by coincidence, maybe it is the result of eating right and being healthy. So then, a thank you is for sure a correct response. Reach our full potential can be a daunting thought, but also very encouraging. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  4. To me, humility=gratitude. To be humble is to recognize the gifts you have been given, and to be grateful for them. Not grateful that you have them and others don't, but just simply grateful for gifts that you have.

    If that is truly the case, then a humble response to a compliment would most definitely be a "thank you", because you are not only thankful for the compliment, but for the gift as well.

    I agree that there are some strange social tendencies associated with compliments. I also have noticed the phenomenon that mimihalley pointed out of "disagreeing" with a compliment. Frankly, it bugs me, and I try really hard not to do it, although I'm sure that I still do sometimes. Humility does not mean accepting that we are "less good", but rather embracing the wonderful qualities about ourselves with gratitude while looking for the wonderful qualities in others as well.

  5. Speaking of brains being mush, your posts of late are wonderful but too deep for my mushy brain to formulate comments upon. Avoiding pride is one of the weirdest things to analyze. I think I've fallen into the trap that if I disagree with someone it's prideful, and am therefore frozen by a lot of conversations. I still disagree, but I don't know how to handle it. I end up not saying anything and awkwardly redirecting the conversation. I need to figure it out. I interact with some opinionated people on a regular basis.
    Saying thank you to compliments became easy to me with practice. I just say thanks and move on. It was also helped along by not liking my compliments being shut down and not wanting to make other people feel that same disappointment.

    annnnd...there you go, I hope that was followable.

  6. As a kid, I was horrible at doing what mimihalley says, until I got a couple years into my music training. When someone finally told me that I shouldn't acknowledge all my mistakes to whoever was complimenting my performance, it sure made life easier. No awkwardness on their part not knowing how to respond to me listing off all my mistakes!

    I think being involved in something like music makes the recognition of your accomplishments but remaining humble a little easier to develop. Because, while you might be achieving a lot and performing really well, there are usually always those around who are obviously better than you who keep you from getting too puffed up (and push you to work harder and get better as well!).

  7. i used to feel uncomfortable about getting compliments about my looks or i just act like pheobie on friends and accept them with confidence, while on the inside thanking my parents for the genes they passed along to me :) love your writing aimes xoxox