I was having a conversation with a good friend the other night and she told me that she was very proud of her partner. I wanted to tell her that I was proud of him too, and then I realized what bothered me so much about the word. It has a connotation attached to it that I fundamentally dislike.
feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.
What’s not directly said, but strongly implied is a sense of ownership. Being proud of something implies that it is yours, or yours by association. You can be proud of your new Tesla, or you can be proud of the new TPS report cover you created. These are possesions and accomplishments.
You can also be proud of another person. Maybe your child, or your spouse, or even your friend. But this also implies ownership. Yours. It’s almost as if you’re saying, “I’m happy to see you succeed, because due to our association it will reflect well upon myself.”
What’s worse is that I cannot think of an alternative that doesn’t have this connotation. Some more befitting words, such as respect, honor, admire, were suggested but none that we could come up with really had the same meaning. For example, I can certainly respect Goebbel’s scarily effective social engineering skills, though I most certainly am not proud of the murderous weasel.
The poly community has an interesting word, compersion, meaning “to take pleasure in experiencing another persons joy.” Maybe this is an odd usage of the word, but I feel that on a regular basis. I may not be in the majority, but reading a news article about an unknown somebody’s successes makes me happy and when friends tell me stories about their loved ones I feel pride just like they do. Well, I would, that is, if the word didn’t come with that nasty ownership implication tacked on.
What I really want is a conversational word that means:
I may not know you, but it brings me great pleasure to see your success and accomplishments.
And that would be one more vestige of a patriarchal society eradicated.
UPDATE: A friend pointed me to the Buddhist word “mudita” which has exactly the meaning I am looking for. I wish it was easier to say in daily conversation though!