Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back to Basics: Pride

The first of the seven deadly sins is pride. It also is the mother, the author, of all other sins. This was a new concept for me when I first came across it but so very obvious upon reflection. In the end it all comes down to a distortion of truth, does it not? How important am I? How much better am I than others? Easy to see and understand, yet this is so very hard to keep in check ... because it can manifest itself in any and every aspect of one's life.
The sin of pride is an inordinate love of self -- a super-confidence and high esteem in your own abilities. It's also known as vanity. It exaggerates your abilities, gifts, and talents, and ignores your weaknesses, frailties, and imperfections.

In Catholicism, sinful pride is the deviation or distortion of the legitimate need of self-affirmation. Liking yourself isn't sinful. In fact, it's healthy and necessary, but when the self-perception no longer conforms to reality, and you begin to think that you're more important than you actually are, the sin of pride is rearing its ugly head...

Pride is the key to all other sins, because after you believe that you're more important than you actually are, you compensate for it when others don't agree with your judgment. You rationalize your behavior and make excuses for lying, cheating, stealing, insulting, ignoring, and such, because no one understands you like you do. In your mind, you're underestimated by the world.

That's the extreme expression of pride. A subtler example is when you refuse to accept the authority of someone else over you, be it a parent, teacher, employer, pastor, bishop or pope. Most resentment toward those in authority has nothing to do with the occasional instances of abuse of power in the course of human history. Rather anti-authoritarianism is rooted in pride: "No one is going to tell me what to do." ...

Pride also prevents you from seeking, listening to, or applying advice from others. It fools the mind into thinking that it alone has or can discover all the answers without help from anyone...

The Catholic Church teaches that humility is the best remedy for pride. It's not a false self-deprecation ... It's not denying the truth ...

In other words, although acknowledging your talents is good, humility should remind you that your talents come from God. Pride fools you into thinking that you're the source of your own greatness.
Catholicism For Dummies by John Trigilio
Recommended reading: Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. He examines the virtues in depth and also looks specific virtues and Beatitudes as antidotes to each of the seven deadly sins. Not a new concept but one that he writes about superbly (as always).

Next up: Envy.


  1. Okay so this gives me the opportunity to share one of my favorite Biblical insights that people always tell me I'm wrong about. When I was growing up, I was taught that we could look to Job as an example for life not being fair, even to people like Job, who were faithful and good. Some even say withot sin, but that's a bit of a stretch.

    When I read Job, however, it has always struck me that if anything, Job suffers from pride. His disbelief that he is having hardship. His questioning of God. Where else did this come from? The first time I pointed this out, I was 12, and heartily shushed. You may shush me if you'd like; I just think it interesting to think about.

  2. That is an interesting take on it. And we could certainly see it being the reason God comes in at the end and says, "Where were you when I made the world?" Essentially saying, you don't know nuttin' so shaddup.

    I don't know if I see Job being proud so much as being just like most people. We all like to say, "But WHY Lord?" when horrible stuff happens to us. And the way that Jewish people saw it back then was that it was a tit for tat process with God. You did good, you got good. You did bad ... well, your family was wiped out and you were left covered with sores.

    Even now, with a further revelation of God, we still are left asking why and looking for someone to blame when the plain truth is that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And I suppose that could be considered pride.

    I always looked at the fact that his children were killed and felt sorry for him. I imagined his pain and thought his questions were anguished.

    That is what is so great about that book. It has it all for us to ponder. :-)