I hope it's not condescending to say that I'm proud of people I know. I can never quite work up the courage or panache to say it out loud. It sounds very 1950's TV-corny:
"Well, Jimmy, you may have burned down the fire station, but you apologized. I'm proud of you."
The last thing I'd want to do is "ruin the moment" by saying something artificial. As a friend said, "You're a bit of a smart-ass, aren't you?" I'm worried that I wouldn't have enough serious credibility to pull of something like that with actual feeling.
It doesn't stop me from feeling it. There are times when I've been so proud of people I just want to hug them. That's not terribly 'manly'...how about "it makes me want to crush their bones in a man-vice". That sounds beer-and-fishing friendly.
As I said, it's a strange thing to say. It always makes me second guess when I say I'm proud of a contemporary, someone who's about the same age bracket as I am. I guess because it carries with it an implicit ranking. As though I didn't expect them to make the correct choice, but they did it anyway. "Thank you for proving my friendship with you isn't a total one-way street, serf."
I'm proud of so many of my friends. Whether it's laboring away at something you love, trying to defy the world's low expectations of yourself, making the hard choice to embark on a different life in a different place, struggling to grow up and become who you need to be, or being at war with the forces of hope and failure inside yourself, I'm proud of all of you. I draw strength from seeing other people handle misfortune, bad choices, tough choices, and personal sacrifice with serious concentration and hope for the future.
It's easy for me to become disillusioned with people. I watch too much of the news, finding bad people doing bad things left and right. What's worse is I feel it all. When the home is destroyed, I feel the emptiness. When the soldier dies, I feel the sorrow. When ignorance threatens, I feel the frustration. And when life goes wrong, I feel the helplessness.
So I appreciate getting picked up by witnessing someone denouncing a stereotype. I feel emboldened when someone reasons their way out of a quarrel. I am in awe of people who know their road is hard and press on. And I am indebted to those who show that even though change is frightening and unpredictable, my friends will do it anyway.
I am proud of you.