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643: Boasting

Ok, if you’re not someone who reads the Bible on a regular basis, “boast” may not be a word that you see or read all that often. Brag or pride tend to be the bigger brothers of this word in English, and in a way, boast is a word that relies on pride.

As Merriam Webster put it, quote:

BOAST, BRAG, VAUNT, CROW mean to express pride in oneself or one’s accomplishments. BOAST often suggests ostentation and exaggeration, but it may imply a claiming with proper and justifiable pride. BRAG suggests crudity and artlessness in glorifying oneself. VAUNT usually connotes more pomp and bombast than BOAST and less crudity or naïveté than BRAG. CROW usually implies exultant boasting or bragging.

Buried somewhere in that circular group definition, though, is an interesting note. While there may be plenty of bible quotes talking about how you should never boast nor engage in feeling prideful — it can also be a powerful and justifiable action.

Richard B. Joelson attempts to thread this needle in Psychology Today, arguing that, quote:

Most would agree that pride is a vital part of an individual’s sense of self and an important component of healthy, positive self-esteem. Many of us were taught as children, for better or worse, not to boast or brag, since this is regarded as unattractive or off-putting behavior. “Don’t be too big for your britches,” […] The problem is that our parents may not have understood the difference between boastfulness and expressions of healthy pride. This may explain why I so often hear qualifiers or apologetic preambles like: “I’m really doing very well at my new job! I don’t want you to think I’m bragging, or anything.”

The best insight I could find on boasting actually comes from an article about bragging on LessPenginy where the author breaks down 17 types of bragging, 4 motivations for it, and more. In that article, the author highlights an interaction they had with someone who was going out of their way to try and avoid boasting… and it didn’t exactly turn out well. Quote:

I recall a frustrating exchange with a man I’ll call Mitchell. Throughout our first and only conversation, he gave ridiculously indirect answers to my info-soliciting questions. Indeed he would even go so far as to feign not hearing me. Here’s a characteristic exchange:

Me: “So Mitchell, where did you go to university?”

Mitchell: “In England”, he replied in an accent so posh it would humble the Queen.

Me: “Yes, that much is apparent. I meant where in particular?”

Mitchell: “…”

Me: “You must not have heard me — where’d you study?”

To which Mitchell didn’t respond, instead switching the topic of conversation.

Point being, avoiding boasting entirely is just as frustrating. Boasting may be a way of taking justifiable pride… or a way of hiding what you’re uncomfortable with. Either way, it’s probably worth examining what you choose to talk up.