The Meaning of Sin: How Being Bad Is Good For You

Modern science reveals a silver lining in even the blackest cloak of sin.

By Joe Kita from Reader's Digest Magazine | April 2013

The Meaning of Sin: How Being Bad Is Good For YouChris Buzelli

Jon Katzenbach has been a business consultant for more than 45 years. But when he’s hired to advise companies, he doesn’t automatically recommend cutting costs or incentivizing executives. Instead, he believes there’s a much more powerful motivator than money: pride.

“Just look at the employees of such extraordinary organizations as Southwest Airlines, Apple, or the U.S. Marine Corps,” explains Katzenbach. “Emotional commitment—not logical compliance—is what determines employees’ exceptional service, innovation, dedication, and ultimately success.”

Katzenbach’s first step often is to identify “pride builders” within the organization—employees who are passionate about work and good at motivating others—and then use them as role models. “Pride in the work itself is the key to motivating peak-performing employees,” he adds.

Sound like an evil scheme? Hardly. Although pride is regarded by some as the original deadly sin, what we’re talking about is achievement-oriented pride, and it can be born within individuals or groups, whether corporate, ethnic, or civic.

Studies show that achievement-oriented pride creates feelings of optimism and worthiness. It is motivational, resulting in greater perseverance and personal development. It also fosters leadership and admiration. It even changes physical appearance, prompting more smiles and better posture, which affect social standing.

Among various minority populations, ethnic pride has been linked to better mental health, higher grades, less substance abuse, decreased violence, and lower risk of heart disease. Researchers speculate that the dignity and self-respect that come with achievement-oriented pride boost well-being—a potent life vaccine. And it’s not just members of ethnic groups who can benefit. Gay Pride, I Love NY, Made in America, Semper Fi … all are mottos of pride around which diverse people rally and ultimately better themselves. You just have to be careful not to exhibit too much hubris about it.

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