We interrupt your regularly scheduled installment of the Primility Guide to Email Mastery to bring you this important reminder:
Primility is everywhere.
Consider just my experience of the last 24 hours:
On Sunday morning …
I was reading John Adams by David McCullough and came across this passage on page 272:
Yet for all this, his efforts to obtain Dutch financial help became no easier; and for all his own abundant self-satisfaction in the part he had played, he appreciate how much else had influenced the outcome. “The resolution which has taken place in this nation,” he told Edmund Jennings, “is the result of a vast number and variety of events, comprising the great scheme of Providence … When I recollect the circumstances, I am amazed, and feel that it is no work of mine.”
On the next page, Adams describes his “abundant self-satisfaction” in more detail in a letter to his wife Abigail, prefacing his comments by saying “Pardon the vanity.”
This is a clear example of Adams taking pride in the effort, intelligence, and perseverance he personally brought to the table … while also understanding that his efforts alone would have meant nothing, because he needed the help of many other people and circumstances over time to achieve this objective.
Then on Sunday night …
While watching The Tudors on Netflix — a fantastic show, by the way — this exchange occurred (Season 3, “The Northern Uprising”):
Cardinal Von Waldburg: His holiness has agreed to make you a cardinal. Here is your biretta.
Father Pole: I cannot accept.
Cardinal Von Waldburg: Why not?
Father Pole: I’m not worthy.
Cardinal Von Waldburg: In other words, you prefer your own judgment to that of the Pope, your Holy Father? There is no doubt you suppose that makes you seem humble, but actually it is the sin of pride, Father Pole.
Father Pole then takes the biretta into his hands.
While we don’t consider pride itself to be a sin around these parts — it’s excessive pride (conceit) that is the problem — the point here is clear.
Father Pole makes a statement that seems to display humility but ironically is a display of conceit, at least in this context. When you’re a 16th-century clergyman, you don’t question the authority of the Pope.
Father Pole’s pride and humility are not in balance here, though it could be said that his apparent humility will serve him well in the long run if it drives him to work extra hard to prove his worthiness.
And then just a few minutes ago …
I received a text message with the image below and the statement “It’s everywhere!”
In case you can’t see the image, it’s a book excerpt that reads as follows:
Maybe Mum was right, she thought hazily. It’s all about our egos. She felt she was on the edge of understanding something important. They could fall in love with fresh, new people, or they could have the courage and humility to tear off some essential layer of themselves and reveal to each other a whole new level of otherness, a level far beyond what sort of music they liked. It seemed to her than everything had too much self-protective pride to truly strip down to their souls in front of their long-term partners. It was easier to pretend there was nothing more to know, to fall into an easygoing companionship. It was almost embarrassing to be truly intimate with your spouse; how could you watch someone floss one minute, and the next minute share your deepest passion or most …
Primility within the context of relationships is an endlessly fascinating topic. I promise we’ll get there someday, and there will be so much that we’ll all have to say. In the meantime, this passage sums it up pretty well.
Two people devoid of pride cannot possibly function in a relationship and maintain any sense of personal identity; they can only get lost in a relationship. But too much pride, as the narrator describes here, will not work because there will be no way to reach deeper levels of intimacy, which require the utmost humility on the part of each partner to reach.
Have you seen any similar examples lately?
This isn’t just some rare occurrence for me either. I come across examples of primility in the wild all the time. Granted, I’ve somewhat trained my brain to locate them, but they aren’t forced. They’re there, all around us. Like these.
How about you? Have you come across any illustrative examples of primility lately?
I know that some of you have … because you’ve emailed me to explain them. And I love that! Please continue.
I’ll be back Thursday with another incredibly useful email hack that will help you stay organized and give you more time for meaningful work.