Friday, January 30, 2009

What characteristic do you despise?

I got one of those email questionnaires that asks a bunch of questions about yourself that you fill out and then pass on (along with sending a copy back to the originator). Since it came from a friend I was going through it and came to the question, "What characteristic do you despise?".

Easy, I thought, and typed in "Hypocrisy."

But this one kept nagging at me, and just kept pushing its way back into my thoughts.

Okay, so why does part of my brain thinks "hypocrisy" is an inadequate answer?

Well, where does hypocrisy come from?

Self-centeredness, the notion that the whole world revolves around one and that the most important thing to the person is satisfying their own wants and desires. And anything goes in that pursuit, including spouting high-minded ideals if they'll help you get what you want--hence hypocrisy flows from self-centeredness.

But I still wasn't totally convincing myself that was what the characteristic I most despised.

I thought maybe narcissism, but that trait is more personal, being focused entirely on one's self, and so has less of the external effects of other personality defects.

I finally figured it out then. Hubris.

With self-centeredness it's still possible that you might recognize that in pursuit of your own gratification you're screwing over others, but they're just not as important as you are, so them's the breaks.

Hubris, though, is different. It's self-centeredness without the potential for guilt. Because one afflicted with hubris believes that they are always right, in everything, all the time. Any idea or action of theirs is always right, because they thought of it. There's no questioning, no self-doubt. Everything they do is by definition the right thing to do.

This can be highly destructive.

I've known and known of business owners, religious leaders, and governors and presidents afflicted with hubris, and the result has been damage in all scales across the spectrum.

Doubt is an essential component of a personality, the possibility that despite your best efforts you could still be wrong. It tempers one's actions, encourages one to plan contingencies if case things don't work out, and keeps your attention focused on what you're doing.

I'm a self-confident person, a software developer, and I've been very successful at my career over the years. Still, though, a not insignificant part of that success derives from the fact that I'm well aware that I make design and coding mistakes, and so I'm always on the watch for them. (Which led to my "Confessions of a Terrible Programmer".)

Doubt is part-and-parcel of a healthy, self-confident person, and those lacking it, those infused with hubris, can seriously harm those in their sphere of influence. That therefore is the characteristic I most despise.

1 comment:

sapphirepaw said...

I noticed once that many of the things I despise in other people... are things I do/am myself. It has been the seed of many changes.