Is pride the same as arrogance?

I wonder if we need to rethink the place of pride in society.

When a mother said she was proud of her young son for comforting a child on the playground, another person felt her expression of pride was unseemly.

An acquaintance grumbled about the "proud to be an American" signs that have become ubiquitous. Her point was that we shouldn't be "proud" or feel that we're better than inhabitants of other countries.

No one could argue with that. But I didn't interpret the signs that way. I felt that most Americans who are flying flags, displaying patriotic bumper stickers, and wearing red, white and blue clothing are sending an entirely different message.

Since Sept. 11, many Americans have dusted off their indifference about their country and concluded that it means more to them than they realized. They've decided to show that, yes, they're proud of it.

We often think of pride as negative - as in "Pride goeth before a fall." It's become synonymous with inflated ego and boasting. But the first definition of "proud" in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, is "Having or showing a proper pride in oneself, one's position, one's family, etc."

Was the mother in the park feeling that her child was better than other children, or was she "showing a proper pride" that he had expressed compassion?

Are flag-flying Americans expressing personal superiority or an appreciation of the freedom that the US stands for? Does "America the Beautiful" bring tears to people's eyes because of blind support for their country, or because, despite its faults and problems, they love their native or adopted land?

In the end, the determining factor is what's in the heart.

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