Walker Percy, in his book Lost in the Cosmos, describes a scenario that can help us be a little more introspective. Imagine you’re bringing your garbage can out one evening. You roll it down your driveway, out to the street and you see your neighbor, John.
You say hi, and he says hi.
Then he says there may be a little more traffic and more people parking on the street for the next few weeks because he’s going to be selling the house.
He says, “Jane and I are moving back east.”
You say something like, “It’s been good having you as neighbors. We’ll miss you.”
Then John says, “Yeah, we won the lottery last week — $64 million. So we figured we get a bigger house back east.”
You notice your jaw getting a little tighter as you say, “That’s great news, John. Congratulations.”
He says, “That money will really come in handy.”
You say something like, “I bet it will,” and start walking back to your house. You notice that your teeth are now clenched.
Then your neighbor calls your name again and says, “A few weeks ago, we noticed some moles on Jane’s arm and had the doctor run some tests. They came back positive for cancer. Would you keep us in your prayers?”
You say, “Yes, of course I will. I’m sorry to hear about that.”
John thanks you and walks back into his house. As you start walking toward your house, you realize that you now feel a little better.
That’s our pride. It gives us misery in other people’s joy, and joy in their misery.