2013-09-07

Pride, the Hindrance

Pride certainly manifests in a lot of forms. There's lost pride, wounded pride, injured pride, restored pride, simple pride, foolish pride, false pride, overweening pride, justifiable pride, lasting pride, fatherly pride, a mother’s pride, school pride, team pride, national pride. There’s pride in, pride of, pride for, and pride over. Pride and joy, pride and glory, pride and sorrow. You can nurse your pride, swallow your pride, or show your pride.

Pride was originally two of the deadly sins. The "seven deadly sins" originated as eight deadly sins when Evagrius Ponticus (b. 345) compiled his list of the deadliest sins. For Evagrius, pride was so bad that it was two deadly sins all by itself: one called pride and the other vainglory. Two centuries later Pope Gregory the First slightly revised Evagrius, combining vainglory and pride under the Latin term superbia, equivalent to the Greek hubris. Gregory’s list comes down to us as the seven deadly sins. Even though "pride" was now only one sin, it was, for Gregory, the source of all sin.

“Pride,” said Gregory is the root of all evil.” The other vices “spring from this poisonous root.”

Pope Gregory identified four species of pride:
(1) Boasting of having some excellence that you don’t have;
(2) Having certain excellences and believing that you got them entirely on your own;
(3) Having a certain excellence and believing that no one else has it;
(4) Having an excellence, understanding that it came to you from above, but still believing that it came to you from your own merit.

“Pride is the beginning of all sin” says the Bible. Well, kind of. Some Bibles say it. It’s in a book called Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiasticus, also known as Sirach, is not in the Jewish Tanakh, or in the Protestant or Catholic Bible proper. Protestants call it apocryphal and Catholics call it deuterocanonical, the second canon. For the Eastern Orthodox, however, Ecclesiasticus is simply Biblical. And it was for Augustine (b. 354). Citing Ecclesiasticus, “Pride is the beginning of all sin,” Augustine went on to argue:
St. Augustine (above) and Pope
Gregory I (top)
“Every sin is a contempt of God, and every contempt of God is pride. For what is so proud as to despise God? All sin, then, is also pride....Pride encourages humans to displace God, to act on the willful denial of human limitation, to covet unjust privileges, and to glory in itself far too much.”
What Augustine thought of as displacing God, we might call choosing the delusion of separateness over the reality of interconnection and interdependence.

Over a millennium and a half later, C. S. Lewis wrote:
“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
And from the book of Proverbs (canonical in all the Christian traditions) we read:
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Prov 16: 18-19)
Sounds like there's something -- these writers called it "pride" -- to which we are highly vulnerable and from which the path of spiritual deepening guides us away. There's something -- call it "pride" -- that blocks our true flourishing; something the overcoming of which correlates with possibilities for the flowering of joyful connection and peace.
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This is part 28 of "The Seven Deadlies" (Part 3 of 5 on Pride)
Next: Part 29: "Proud To Be an American?"
Previous: Part 27: "Pride, the Wrong, and Pride, the Redress"
Beginning: Part 1: "Seven and Sins"