7 Deadly Sins series – #2
I associate Pride with all those ‘other people’ who are openly arrogant, self-indulged, smug. I don’t consider myself akin to those endlessly striving for stardom, recognition, glory. But I now know I’m wrong.
We can conveniently see Pride in others but rarely recognize it in ourselves. Of the seven deadly sins, theologians and philosophers reserve a special place for Pride. Lust, Envy, Anger, Greed, Gluttony, and Sloth are all bad, the sages say, but Pride is the deadliest of all, the root of all evil, and the beginning of sin.
I’ve completely misunderstood Pride for … pretty much my entire life. Pride can present as self-delusion, and I was fully deluded.
The central reason Pride is so problematic is that it’s hard to diagnose or identify. Pride easily masquerades as a virtue. Pride prowls near many positive attributes like confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness, individuality, and even creativity.
Yes, I said it … creativity.
My life’s work, my career, my reason for being is tied to my creativity. So, am I doomed? Are we – creative or not – necessarily tethered to Hades?
To find an answer I started by recalling instances of Pride in my life and, sadly, there were too many. Then, reaching for my Bible, I went straight to the Gospels.
I start in Matthew to refresh my memory as to Jesus’s teaching on Pride. I ran across the famous question asked by Jesus,
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye,” Christ asked, “but not notice the log that is in your own?” (Mt. 7:3-5).
I cringe as I easily note several instances where I’ve looked around that log to judge others.
I’m a quietly competitive person. There are too many instances where I gossiped about a thing someone else had done, said, worn while comparing myself to them. I revel in the feeling of triumph when I win a project over another designer or succeed in competition over a coworker.
Am I that Prideful? I began to sweat.
I now understand Pride is precarious. I believe I’m a strong woman. I believe I’ve earned my place in my career and that I deserve everything I’ve worked so hard for. But luckily Pride is not necessarily the result of those actions. Pride is a displaced appreciation of our God-given blessings and gifts.
A simple example is when a friend, coworker, supervisor, spouse, etc. points out that you’re wrong, your pride insists you’re not. But the danger begins when you ignore that person rather than engaging in a deeper conversation with them. Pride allows you to commit sin without remorse or even, necessarily, recognition that you’re sinning. It rationalizes sin away.
Pride will tell you “I’m humble,” when you display a token of gratitude, “so of course, I have no problem with pride.” It’s so insidious that it leads us away without our realizing. We can get caught up in school pride, sports team pride, national pride, and personal achievement—we, as a culture, unwittingly applaud this sin. That is why it’s so deadly.
Pride doesn’t hide from the world like sloth or lust or, say, overspending. It’s proud of itself and says, “What’s the big deal?” or rationalizes “I’m buying for friends, or family. I need this! That’s not a weakness, that’s a virtue!”
Monsignor Charles Pope explains, “Pride is inordinate esteem for one’s own excellence. It is a habit or vice that disposes us to think more of ourselves than we ought. There is a proper esteem we should have for ourselves, but it is rooted in an appreciation for the gifts we have received from God.”
How do we know when Pride may be creeping in? Self-examination is the place to start.
- Be aware that actions you see as unacceptable in others could be issues you rationalize away on your own behavior.
- Liking yourself isn’t sinful. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary, but when you begin to think that you’re more important than you are, the sin of Pride is the burden.
- Engage in reading God’s Word because when you do, it will help uncover Pride within you.
- Ask God to help you sweep away Pride in your life.
There are many words for Pride. Use these to help you while meditating or in prayer to flesh out how prevalent Pride is in your life. Ask yourself, ‘Am I … ?’
- Defiant Intolerant Vane Boastful
- Disdainful Revengeful Impatient Unforgiving
- Self-centered Stubborn Dishonest Haughty
- Bigoted Hypersensitive Touchy Conceited
- Blind to advice
Do I participate in: Unbridled Ambition? Self-aggrandizement?
Armed with an understanding of what pride is, then, what’s the remedy?
How do we combat this terrible trait that is masked in achievement, success, and even satisfaction with ourselves?
St. Augustine had the answer when he said,
“It was pride that turned angels into devils; it is humility that makes [us] as angels.”
Humility is the remedy for pride. Humility is the answer.
As Catholics and all Christians, we understand humility as recognizing that any talent is really a gift from God. I truly do praise God for my talents and the gifts He bestows on my life. I acknowledge that without God’s Grace I can do nothing.
But, for me, the problem is that of all the virtues, humility is difficult to embrace and practice. As humans, we long to be loved, honored, and praised. We want to be recognized, endorsed, and respected by others. We flinch when we are shunned, criticized, or embarrassed. I’m fully in that camp, too.
Monsignor Charles Pope goes on to decipher the 12 Humility steps:
- Fear of God– To fear the Lord is to hold Him in awe. It is to be filled with wonder at all God has done, and at who He is.
- Abnegation of self-will– In the garden, Jesus said to His father, Father, not as I will, but as you will (Lk 22:42). This is what abnegation of the will means: to surrender my will to God’s will, to allow His decisions to override my own.
- Obedience – As we attain a humbler disposition of heart, we’re more willing to obey. Obedience moves from hearing God’s word to heeding it.
- Patient endurance –Striving to hear and understand God’s will and obey Him, we can surely expect to face external and internal obstacles. Patient endurance often takes years of persistent action for the sinful world to lose its grip on us.
- Disclosure of the heart –the humblest journey is the one into our wounded hearts. We may be asked to remember and to realize that we have not always been 100% right, that we have sometimes acted unjustly and sinfully toward others, that we have at times been insensitive. This is a humbling but necessary part of the journey.
- Contentedness with what is– Contentedness is a form of acceptance; it is a great gift to seek and to receive.
- Lucid self-awareness – In pride, we are often filled with many delusions about ourselves, thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. We are often unaware of just how difficult it can be to live or work with us. Humility is reverence for the truth about ourselves.
- Submission to the common rule – Humility makes us more willing to submit our personal needs and agenda to the needs of others and the wisdom of the wider community.
- Silence – Silence is a respectful admission that other people have wisdom to share and important things to say. As our humility grows, we become better listeners, appreciating that others may be able to offer us knowledge or wisdom that we currently lack.
- Emotional sobriety – Many of our emotional excesses are rooted in pride and egocentricity. When we are proud, we are easily offended, easily threatened, for fear begets anger. As our thought life becomes more measured, our conclusions are drawn more carefully and humbly, our emotions are less volatile, and we attain greater emotional serenity and sobriety.
- Restraint in speech – As we become more emotionally stable and less anxious and stirred up, that serenity is reflected in our speech and demeanor. We are less likely to interrupt, to speak in anger, or to be unnecessarily terse or harsh. We don’t need to “win” every debate.
- Congruity between one’s inside and one’s outside – The proud and fearful are always posturing, trying to align themselves with what makes for popularity and profit. As humility reaches its goal, integrity, honesty, and sincerity come to full flower.
This list is a long one taken as a whole, but treating each individual step as its own exercise, we begin to see the sense of it. Living our lives only by the norms of the world, who would want to practice humility? But we are called by God to live our lives to a higher degree – a standard established and practiced by Jesus Christ.
Still, are we Christians necessarily tethered to Hades because we are eager to share our talent with the world? Practicing humility will keep our eyes on the true reason for our inventiveness and talents – the glory of God.