By Amber Kinloch
“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” (“The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride” by Monsignor Charles Pope). It is the summit of self-love and the greatest of the seven deadly sins.
Every sin contains a germ of pride. Besides, sins directly springing from pride come in a multitude of forms. Each of us is inclined to some of them. It is necessary to carefully examine ourselves and discern where we fall short most often.
Forms of Pride
People of different temperaments are inclined to different forms of pride. Some of us are inclined to superiority and independence. We are overbearing, arrogant, and inconsiderate, rigidly seeking to impose our will on others. We struggle to listen, obey, and accept help and corrections. Because we value and vehemently push our own opinion so much, we fail to see the truth about things that we think we understand.
Others of us are overambitious. We seek high offices and honors we do not deserve, and employ immoderate means to achieve our ends. We dream up grand schemes and projects far beyond our abilities, yet are blind to this. We love praise. We are ostentatious. Nothing is too great for us.
Those of us afflicted by self-pity and timidity care too much about what others think. We are oversensitive, inclined to brooding and unforgiveness. We are paralyzed by an unwarranted fear of what others will say and let opportunities pass us by, unused.
Some of us are cynical, thinking and speaking of others in biting terms. Others practice no restraint in their behavior and manner—they are disrespectful and immodest. Still others are unduly curious, prying into matters that do not concern them.
Scrupulous souls are unduly concerned with things of no importance while failing to have a proper regard for that which matters. The spiritually vain, meanwhile, minimize their failings and conceive of themselves as perfect.
Some of us resemble the Pharisees. Our conversation is boastful and critical, full of lies and contradictions. We prize social status, and are haughty and disdainful towards those we deem inferior. We are legalistic. We fulfill our duties in a hypocritical manner with no spirit.
Consequences of Pride
Pride is the most dangerous of sins. When we fall into pride, we say, “No,” directly to God like Satan did, as well as Adam and Eve. We say, “No,” to the One Who is All-Wise and set ourselves up in His place. We blind ourselves to the Truth, leaving ourselves impoverished.
This blindness isolates us from others. No one enjoys the company of a proud person. They have no consideration for others. Their whole universe revolves around them. If you try to tell them the truth about something, they reject it or brush it aside. There is no room for any opinion but theirs. They always have to be right.
Pride, unchecked, tends to lead to presumption—we assume that our salvation is guaranteed. Alternatively, we can fall into despair, considering ourselves beyond saving. In both cases, we block out God, refusing to let Him help us with His grace. The end result is our freely choosing damnation.
Remedies for Pride
The first step, as always, is an examination of conscience. Review your thoughts, words, and actions. Scrutinize your desires and motivations. What are you focused on? What do you resist doing? What drives you to act throughout the day? You might also consider the object your pride is centered on. It could be beauty, talents or skills, physical strength, intellect, wealth, rank, wit, or even your piety and morals.
You might come up with a long list of ways you commit the sin of pride. Try to winnow this list down to 2–3 prominent things, e.g., curiosity and a love of praise. With those in mind, you can come up with specific ways to fight this sin.
Humility, of course, is the counter virtue to pride. First, though, try cultivating a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude shows you how much love and goodness you’ve received from God and others without deserving it. Gratitude uplifts you with happiness even as it humbles you by opening your eyes to the truth about things.
This opening of your eyes to the truth forms the basis of humility. Humility is not a matter of groveling in the dust. It is a recognition of the truth of who we are in relation to God. Corrupted by sin, we are weak and selfish. Yet we are infinitely loved. God can do anything with and through us if only we lean on Him.
Humility leads us to self-forgetfulness. It leads us to be so focused on loving God and our neighbor that we forget ourselves. How we seek to cultivate it depends upon our needs. Suggestions:
- We can keep a leash on our thoughts by avoiding undue curiosity, ruminating over bad memories, or thinking too much of ourselves (“I’m so tired. I’m hungry. I just want a break…”).
- We can curb our tongue and listen more. We can avoid complaining and criticizing. We can say “thank you” more, and offer praise and encouragement.
- We can look for opportunities to perform little kindnesses for people, e.g., doing some chore without being asked.
- We can accept advice and corrections with a simple “thank you.”
- We can maintain a sense of humor and avoid taking ourselves too seriously.
- We can stay serene, not letting our shifting emotions rule us throughout the day.
- We can keep ourselves busy with what we should be doing, thereby avoiding a great many temptations.
- We can quietly accept being passed over when we feel we deserve something, e.g., a favor, a certain honor, or even just the last piece of cake.
- We can practice mercy by avoiding taking offense. If somebody hurts us, we can forgive them promptly, remembering how God has forgiven us.
Combating pride is the work of a lifetime, not a day. Sometimes, it feels like playing a game of “whack a’ mole” trying to tame it in all these different areas. Yet in the end it all comes down to keeping our eyes fixed on God. With His help, we will triumph.
Note: Insights into the different forms of pride are taken from “The Seven Capital Sins” booklet by Tan Books.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.