March 1, 2010 — 8 Comments

The Seven Deadly Sins are wrath, greed, sloth, lust, envy, gluttony and pride.

Pride … Should it really one of the 7 Deadly sins?

‘Pride’ as define by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:
a) the quality or state of being proud: as a : inordinate self-esteem : conceit
b) a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
c) delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship

One of the modern day 7 deadly sins – pride, or hubris, is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and is considered the source from which all the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self.

“Pride” is also what separates a good contractor from a great contractor.


Pieter Bruegel the Elder-The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices-Anger

I chooseth not to beleiveth that the pride from whicheth I speaketh is the same as the one identified by the Catholic Church, King Solomon, or Evagrius Ponticus. This is more about craftsmanship and ownership of that craftsmanship. When a contractor shows attention to detail and wants to be part of the design process, it is an indication that they have ownership in the work they produce. When people have ownership in the work they produce, that generally translates into a superior end result.

Okay, so maybe that version of pride is the same thing, but Seven Deadly Sins or not, I want that on my projects – particularly the modern style projects which are far more demanding to properly execute.

The downside to this level of craftsmanship, if you’re looking for a downside, is that it is always expensive and slow. We have all heard the expression – better, faster and cheaper. When it comes to construction, you can only get two of the three and that’s only when you are willing to pay for them. To the craftsman who build millwork or fabricate and forge steel components, or any other artisans of that matter, their craft is art and they generally believe that anything worth doing is worth doing for the sake of creating something beautiful. It is expensive because they self-police their work and deem things to be acceptable or unacceptable as part of the process and the cost to re-do the work is built into the cost. Rarely is it one and done. Sometimes these artisans can be difficult to work with but you know (unfortunately just as they do) that it is ultimately worth it in the end.

The picture above is a tiny example of craft – and this is an important level of craft when building modern residences. This is a shower niche in my own house – the important thing to recognize here is that the niche is perfectly sized to the tile and grout joints – both left to right, top to bottom, front to rear, all while being perfectly centered on the shower head from the opposite wall. I didn’t even have to tell this particular contractor that this would be important – he knew it was important.

This is an image of a mosaic tile piece that went in to a project I worked on – one of three such pieces in total. This is a tiny portion of the whole – the final mosaic was almost 5′ tall and 11′ wide and took the artist three months to make. I don’t believe that you could build a piece like this and not have pride in the finished product given the dedication it would take to see something this detailed through to completion.

wood ceiling alignment

This is a another example pride showing up on the job site. What you are looking at is the wood ceiling of a covered outdoor terrace. Notice how the light and the inline ceiling heater are perfectly in alignment with the joints of the wooden board. I didn’t tell them that they had to do it and while I am confident that my design documentation is very thorough, this is a difficult level of coordination to achieve. It happened to get built this way because the person who built it took pride in their work and wanted it to be apparent … definitely the work of an evil sinner.

A sometimes unexpected by-product of having something beautifully made by people who take great pride and ownership in the work is that if anything ever goes wrong, even well beyond your standard warranty period, they will come and fix it for you.

Pride as a deadly sin? Not on a job site.

Happy sinning,

Bob-AIA scale figure

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  • I honestly believe if every “creative” people walked around with their “work” being visually dragged behind them, more and more will polish their craftsmanship to unbeatable levels… Nobody would want an ugly thing attached to one’s image…

    This is a clear example, work on details on a “private” element as if the whole world would see it. Amazing.

    Thanks for the post Bob.

  • Anonymous

    Of all of the sins of contractors, this one doesn’t show up nearly enough.

  • I think you are right on with the pride remark.  The pride you take in your own work is for yourself, it isn’t about gloating to others, its about making yourself happy.  Doing good work is like putting in a hard workout.  It’s all self-motivation to be better, its very demanding on you, but in the end, you feel so much better because you did it.

  • Hirtiok

    “i doth not believeth” nice lisp, bob!

  • Bob,

    Great post about craftsmanship. Your comments are spot on. I wish all my clients understood the value of a true craftsman taking ownership of his work for the sake of excellence and the related extra expense in some cases. I think the low-bid mentality out there is promoting the acceptance of low quality. Cheaper but not necessarily faster or better.

    The photo of the niche is indicative of a craftsman that takes pride in his work and I would be proud to have that individual work on one of my projects.

    Glad I came upon your blog post.

    Ed Rappold

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ed,

      I tell people between better, faster, and cheaper, you can have any two you want – but make sure on of them is better. There are few things as frustrating as walking by something that looks terrible even if you did get a good deal on it.