A guest post by Prof. Paulo Ribeiro

Pride and jealousy are both complex emotions, but they differ in their motivations and manifestations. Pride typically arises from a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment in one’s own accomplishments. It often involves feelings of conviction, self-worth, and self-respect based on personal achievements.

Pride can be a positive emotion when it reflects healthy self-esteem. It motivates individuals to struggle for excellence and take pride in their work. However, pride can become negative when it progresses into arrogance or excessive self-importance, leading to a disregard for others’ perspectives. Pride is competitive by its very nature. And gets no pleasure out of having something, but only out of having more of it than someone else.

Jealousy, on the other hand, stems from a fear of loss or a sense of insecurity in response to perceived threats to one’s relationships, possessions, or achievements. It often involves feelings of envy, resentment, or insecurity triggered by the success or advantages of others. Jealousy can be a destructive emotion, leading to negative behaviours such as competitiveness, resentment, or even sabotage. I experienced that a couple of times in the workplace.

Pride and jealousy can manifest in academia in various ways, often intertwined with the pursuit of knowledge, recognition, and success. Academic arrogance, status, elitism, and resistance to criticism are among the principle causes of pride.

Pride and jealousy in academia are not surprising. Competing for the highest recognition can foster feelings of envy among colleagues. Reduced resources, battles for opportunities, intellectual property, institutional politics, or just strained relationships can be among the sources of these misbehaviours.

Furthermore, favouritism, cliques, and power struggles can aggravate reactions of jealousy when individuals perceive others as receiving favoured treatment or advancing their careers through non-excellence-based means.

When I returned to Brazil from Europe, I remember one of my friends, who had previously worked in Canada for several years, giving me the following advice: “Keep a low profile, lest you attract needless attention and consequently trouble in the form of unnecessary jealousy from others in your department.”

C.S. Lewis worked at Oxford for 30 years and was never promoted to full professor, apparently because of the jealousy of his department colleagues (he had become too famous with the publication of many books). Familiarity produces contempt. Cambridge, however, did see his fantastic scholarly contributions, created a chair and made him Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English.

In a private letter to a budding scholar, Lewis (who struggled with pride himself) wrote: “Yes, I know one doesn’t even want to be cured of one’s pride because it gives pleasure. But the pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch: but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard, we shall want the pleasure of self-approval: but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else instead.”

At another time, Lewis said: “That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanicai said, we may come to love knowledge – our knowing – more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.”

Recognizing the interaction and differences between pride and jealousy can help individuals navigate their own emotions and interpersonal dynamics more effectively and be open for more cooperation and collaboration with others.

Collaboration in academia serves as a powerful antidote to both pride and jealousy, promoting a culture of communal respect, shared learning, and collective achievement, to reach the ideal when we can forget all proprietorship in our own works, and can enjoy our work as if they were someone else’s: without pride or modesty. And if it is someone else’s, we should be able enjoy it as if it were our own.

Paulo Ribeiro is IEEE PES Distinguished Lecturer and works at the Federal University of Itajubá, in ISEE – Electric Energy Institute.