Hubris and success

Humility can win success, but hubris can lose it.

Sharing success with others can attract success.  .

Sharing success with others can attract success. (Copyright Caters News Agency / Michaela Walch )

I selected a couple of random blogs on WordPress today of writers I have never visited before, one was a letter “to a bully.” The writer was a successful published writer who had been bullied as a child.  The writer boasted about their success as a writer, their nice car, nice apartment, healthy children; they declared they were god; they wished only misfortune and suffering upon all those that bullied them.

Whilst some of their followers praised them their success I reacted differently.  It is rare that a comment from me is sarcastic.  I wrote from the point of view of the loser in the gutter, the one who this writer had wished only suffering upon: I admired their success, their wealth and material belongings, how they admired themselves in the mirror as a god as they desired only suffering upon my gutter existence. I observed how that writer had lost something in their journey to being the winner, humility.

Heraclitus made a good observation that “Strife is Justice”, from hardship we are made strong.  I would never be the sort of person I am now without the trouble and strife that I faced over my life.  In each challenge that I faced and overcame I became stronger, I won the blessing hidden inside each challenge.  I continue to struggle, continue to grow, but I never forget my humility.  Many have done me wrong, but I have let them go, I won’t indulge in wishes of misfortune to them, the outcomes of their choices in future is of no concern to me.

The opposite of humility is hubris, it is a great curse to have in addition to success. Hubris blinds so that a person is no longer in touch with reality.  Hubris in the modern sense means pride before the fall, and I have seen many fall because of it.

All success is a blessing.  For the writer to brag and boast, to flaunt their wealth and healthy children like a prize bull is to take those blessings for granted, to lose sight that everything is temporary and fragile.  Cars crash, houses burn down, children die; nothing is certain.  To use such blessings in the ancient Greek definition of hubris to enjoy the suffering of others is to move such blessings into the danger zone of losing them altogether.

Hubris can obliterate success in three ways.  One way is because of the blinding nature of hubris the individual miscalculates, makes an error which causes their “fall”.  The second way is that the universe moves in feedback loops, so if a person is thinking, saying and doing a something, a part of that something feeds back at them. The third way is that to the subconscious there is no difference between outside and inside, or you or me, so to do or think harm to another is treated by the subconscious as harm to self, and it will deliver that harm onto the doorstep of the one that wished the harm.  This third way is why some belief systems talk about the eventual gain to self from sharing blessings with others.

I wish success for everyone, but also that they treat success as a blessing, share that success with others, and with humility.

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18 responses to “Hubris and success

  1. This is a good post… Alex… I agree with David..

  2. I agree with you Alex, without our suffering, pain and hurts, we would not be whom we are today… And that writer should be careful for what he wishes…. Karma has a habit of throwing back in your face that what is wished for on others… What goes around comes around scenario :-)
    Great Post

  3. Also, i would add that all these material successes do not necessarily mean he is happy – happiness come from within. The poorest beggar may be happy, if he lives by his own moral compass and understands his life; the richest man may well be unhappy if he has not fulfilled his inner desires…. boasting about riches suggests an inner discontent – to me, anyway.

    • I sensed in that writer I blogged about their bitterness and hatred, it appeared to me they were unhappy despite their boasts of success. You are right, the worker in McDonald s that they described as a loser could be a happy individual at peace with themselves and the world. I know of many successful people, but despite the evidence of their material wealth and power they were extremely unhappy sickened people.

  4. I have to believe this person is very unhappy, if not he would have left the past behind. I suspect his home, and all the material possessions he owns give him no happiness beyond the ability to flaunt it trying to make himself feel better.

    There are people in my past who have hurt me, who doesn’t have those experiences, it’s what makes up our lives. But we need to learn from those experiences, not carry them around like a weight trying to sink us.

    I had an experience in school where I was bullied for no reason other than I had a disability. I was thrilled to reach high school hoping to leave the bullies behind. One day I spotted one of them in the hallway, he came right up to me and told me I didn’t have to worry about him, he was sorry and felt badly for how he had previously treated me. He explained that while it wasn’t an excuse he did it trying to fit in. I won’t say we became best friends, but we were able to move forward without hard feelings.

    What I learned from that is that most bullies are coming from a place of insecurity in themselves. They follow the pack and try to be the leader to mask what they really feel about themselves so they won’t be the victim of bullying themselves.

    • I got the impression that the writer I wrote about in this blog post was unhappy, since why carry such bitterness and hatred so many years later? Your observation about bullies being insecure is so true, often they need as much assistance as the victims they bully.

  5. The issue seems to hinge on the need for self knowledge and awareness of how our actions affect others- a constant process of reflection and assessment. Having a bit of pride, in this down trodden world, doesn’t hurt in small measures.

    • Pride is good in moderation, hubris is the extreme of pride and that is when things go wrong. In Celtic myth there is King Arthur who started off well then his hubris destroyed his kingdom and the Round Table. The Welsh stories are condemning of Arthur for his hubris, but you have to read them carefully to see it.

  6. Excellent post Alex! I think another lesson we can learn from the writer and bully example is that everything changes over time. The writer seemed to have held a grudge against the bully for a long time, but the bully is probably just a normal human being just like the rest of us now. Was the writer was pedantic enough to define the bully’s entire life by his childhood? I hope not.

    • You make a good point Sean as everything is in a state of change from moment to moment, one person holding onto long dead memories whilst the world, including that of the bully has moved on. Because everything changes there is an opportunity for the bully to change for the better, but those that hold on to old beliefs of the bully refuse to accept or allow the bully to change.

  7. Yes,there is a great deal of freedom in letting go.By working on revenge or getting even we continue to be influenced by the people who did is ill.

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