Benjamin Franklin, writing in "Poor Richard's Almanac," hit it on the head: "The proud hate pride -- in others." Every one of us has something we are pleased with, something to be proud of, and sometimes we'd like to tell somebody about it, but nobody enjoys listening to a braggart, and yet a real braggart has no idea how boring and obnoxious he is.
The compulsion to brag and to exercise our bragging rights can lead to all sorts of trouble. Veterans of World War II who had done many brave deeds and had plenty to brag about were known for talking very little about their military exploits. About the only time reference is publicly made about military service is in connection with a political campaign, and then not always accurately. Like the current candidate in an eastern state who served in the military during the Vietnam conflict who has talked about his service in Vietnam, but he was never there. He served stateside during that war. He doesn't admit he deliberately misled the voters, just that he may not have expressed the limits of his service accurately. What could be sadder?
We all like to brag when our football team wallops the rival from down the road. Boring and obnoxious, but it can get worse. We like to brag about college football powerhouses. Isn't that harmless fun? Not when the pressure mounts on the coaches and players to the point of twisting the rules of sportsmanship, honesty and even breaking the law. Like when Southern California loyalists were paying huge sums of money under the table to their "amateur" star Reggie Bush who won the Heisman Trophy as the outstanding college player that year. He had to give the trophy back, but the damage was already done. When pride goes over the top and bragging rights are more important than integrity, people get hurt.
When young criminals pull off a "smart" deal, what is it that usually gets them caught? Bragging. Somebody starts bragging about how clever they were and how much money they made. Then somebody who hears the bragging but doesn't like it talks about it and soon the leak leads to somebody going to jail.
The heaviest braggarts are the folks with the heaviest insecurities. The more I need to feel important, the more I brag.
Take the lover who "scores." He thinks he's the top stud of the age. So he brags not only about his conquest, but names the girl. If you've been around, you've heard this kind of talk, and not just by teenagers for that matter. But the talk doesn't stop with just one brag -- on and on it goes. Is the story always the truth? Who knows? But the end result is that reputations are damaged. A private affair becomes public and somebody gets hurt.
Even governments brag. Poverty stricken North Korea just held a giant military parade with thousands of goose-stepping soldiers and wagons of military hardware to celebrate the passing of the guard to 27 year-old Kim Jong Un, son of dictator, Kim Jong, II. This pitiful government is striving to develop a nuclear-armed military and they're flexing their muscles to act like the big boys in international affairs. Just like Iran. Look out for international braggarts and bullies -- sooner or later they have to prove how tough they really are and somebody gets hurt.
So tell me about your children and grandchildren (even your dog, if you insist) and let me tell you about mine. A little pride can be healthy. But no thanks, I don't care to hear about your yacht, your mistress or your clever stock deal. And for heaven's sake, be careful what you put on Facebook -- it may come back to haunt you.